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Entertainment

Film festival pays tribute to Sidney Poitier

February 4th, 2012 6:16 pm by staff report

It’s been said that Sidney Poitier was to Hollywood what Jackie Robinson was to major league baseball: the man who broke the color barrier.


An actor, director and producer, he forever altered the racial perceptions long held by both motion picture audiences and executives, rising to superstar status in an industry forever dominated on both sides of the camera by whites while becoming the first African-American ever to take home an Oscar for Best Actor.


Poitier’s career is the focus of “Black Film Festival: Films of Sidney Poitier,” with screenings at 7:30 p.m., every Tuesday night in February in the Executive Auditorium of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.


Discussions of the films will be led each week by Tommy Bryant, an English instructor at Virginia Highlands Community College.


Admission is free.


The series will begin Tuesday, Feb. 7 with a screening of “A Raisin in the Sun,” the 1961 film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play. In it, Poitier plays Walter Lee Younger, a young man with big dreams of economic success. When his father dies and leaves the family a $10,000 inheritance, Walter’s dreams stand in stark contrast with those of his wife’s, his mother’s and his sister’s plans for the money.


Other films in the series include:


• “A Patch of Blue,” Feb. 14.Poitier stars as Gordon Ralfe, a thoughtful young postal worker who one day in the park befriends a lonely blind white girl. They continue to meet every afternoon and he teaches her to get along in the city. When her domineering mother finds out about the relationship, she is determined to end it.


• “To Sir, With Love,” Feb. 21.Unable to find work as an engineer, Mark Thackeray (Poitier) accepts a teaching post in London’s East End slums. To reach his sullen, rebellious students, he throws away his textbooks and endeavors to reach them as human beings — and as the adults they’re going to become.


• “In the Heat of the Night,” Feb. 28. Poitier plays detective Virgil Tibbs, who is caught up in the racial tensions of the South when he is arrested for the murder of a prominent businessman. After the local police chief learns that Tibbs is Philadelphia’s leading homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance in the case.

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