Watching In the Heat of the Night in Abidjan

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This is going to be a short post since I should be focusing on my Motifs of Cinema post for Andrew at Encore Entertainment’s now annual blogathon. (Because why I would I start that earlier than the day it’s supposed to be posted.)

I just got back from visiting my sister in Côte d’Ivoire. During the 9 days I was there, I accompanied her to a few programs she runs for English students throughout the country. Because it is Black History Month, these programs all centered around the Civil Rights Movement and highlighting this period in American history with students. That’s how I ended up at a special screening of In The Heat of The Night and discussing the film with English students afterwards.

Running a screening in Cote d’Ivoire for English students is (unsurprisingly) completely different than the weekly classic film screening I run in New Jersey. Because I am a know-it-all film snob, I often forget that not everyone watches movies the way that I do. This is especially true of people for who English isn’t their first language who are watching a non-dubbed American film and aren’t aware of American history. So most of the Q&A was spent explaining the plot and which white guy did it.

But I took away something else from watching In the Heat of the Night in Abidjan. Sidney Poitier is universally loved. Every instructor talked about how much they loved Poitier and his film. And Poitier gained some new fans in Côte d’Ivoire especially thanks to the scene when Tibbs slaps Endicott across the face. At another program in Yamaoussoukro, a question was asked: “Does anyone know any famous black actors?” The only answers were Wesley Snipes and Sidney Poitier. Take that, Will Smith.

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“42” at the American Corner Yamoussoukro. This movie is also shown to highlight the Civil Rights Movement to Ivorian students.
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