The prestigious Academy Museum of Motion Pictures was buzzing Wednesday night for the Los Angeles premiere of the hotly anticipated Apple Original Films Documentary “Sidney.”
The creative team behind the film were in great spirits at the L.A. premiere, coming off the heels of “Sidney’s” highly lauded world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
From producer Oprah Winfrey and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the revealing documentary honors the legendary Sidney Poitier and his legacy as an iconic actor, filmmaker, and activist at the center of Hollywood and the Civil Rights Movement.
The film features a slew of powerful interviews with Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, and Spike Lee. “Sidney” is produced by Derik Murray in close collaboration with the Poitier family, who were in attendance.
The evening centered on Poitier’s daughters: Beverly, Anika, Pamela, Sherri, and Sydney. The women shared family stories on the shimmering gold carpet about Mr. Poitier, the first black man to win the Best Actor Oscar for his role in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field.”
Producer Oprah Winfrey took several pictures and engaged with friends on the carpet before heading into the Academy Museum’s screening room.
Director Reginald Hudlin spent thousands of hours with Poitier’s work and was asked about Poitier’s least recognized work. “More people need to see ‘Buck and the Preacher,’” says Hudlin. “That made a big impression on me as a kid.”
As the documentary’s title suggests, this movie not only delves into Oscar winner Poitier’s work as an acclaimed actor and director, but it also shows him as an activist, family man, and human being with integrity and poise.
The team behind the film wisely chose to let Poitier tell his own story. “It is a treasure to have someone in their own words tell you their deepest thoughts about their life,” explains executive producer Terry Wood.
This was made possible thanks to the in-depth interviews conducted by Oprah in 2012, where Sidney Poitier directly addresses the camera. “It was tried in a couple of different ways,” shares Wood of the interview setup. “Having Sidney talk directly to the camera turned out to be a better choice than interviewing him.”
In addition to Poitier’s own narration, the film interweaves contributions from Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Barbara Streisand, Morgan Freeman, and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Poitier’s wives and daughters.
Director Reginald Hudlin reveals that it was a delicate process to decide who to include in the documentary. “Everyone loves Sidney, but not everyone knows Sidney,” shares Hudlin. “Our filter was, ‘What was your relationship to him?’ It needed to be a personal relationship. For example, Barbara Streisand ran a company with him,” explains Hudlin.
Sidney Poitier’s longtime friend and collaborator Harry Belafonte was also interviewed for the film. Belafonte’s daughter Shari had fond memories on the carpet about being on set with her dad on the very first film that Poitier ever directed, 1972’s “Buck and the Preacher.”
Oscar-winning actress and singer Cher also recalled meeting Sidney Poitier for the first time, and it certainly lived up to her expectations. The pair hit it off, and he would often come to Cher’s home for BBQ gatherings.
“You meet someone that you love and then they are in your house, and you are trying to kind of impress them,” Cher says with a laugh. “We’re having a barbeque with a bunch of people, and we were really rowdy, while Sidney was still Mr. Calm.”
Emmy winner Loretta Devine who acted together with Sidney Poitier in the 1988 thriller “Little Nikita” hopes this documentary will inspire young black men to be successful and to go after their dreams. “You have to see your own image to know you can succeed,” says Devine.
Last week’s Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph looked back fondly on her time with Poitier on her very first film “A Piece of the Action.”
“A real grand human being, Sidney Poitier took the time to never forget where he came from, and he never let us forget where it is we should be going,” says Lee Ralph.
“Sidney” premieres globally on Apple TV+ on September 23, 2022.