Watching In the Heat of the Night in Abidjan


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.

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

The Moth: "Poitier and Brando: Mississippi 1964"

The Moth is a non-for-profit story telling organization that was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members. Every Monday, a new free podcast can be downloaded through itunes. The stories are always hilarious, poignant and memorable tales.

This week’s podcast is a story told by Bob Zellner, the author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement. The story is called “Poitier and Brando: Mississippi 1964”. Zellner recounts his years as a civil rights activist and his experiences with Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, and Harry Belafonte. It’s a great story and you can listen to the story here.

Zellner’s memoir is being adapted into a film to be directed by Spike Lee.

Ahh, Sidney

Finally! News from the Cannes Film Festival not about how The DaVinci Code is a horrible movie.

Actor Sidney Poitier gets France’s highest cultural honour in Cannes

Canadian PressPublished: Thursday, May 18, 2006
CANNES, France (AP) – France gave actor Sidney Poitier its highest arts honour Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, where the culture minister praised him for tearing down barriers for black actors in Hollywood.

Poitier was named a commander in France’s order of arts and letters. Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres told the 79-year-old actor: “You are the champion of equality between men.”

The actor, who won an Academy Award for Lilies of the Field in 1963, thanked his parents, who were field workers in the Bahamas, for giving him a sense of honesty, integrity and compassion.

He also thanked the directors who broke convention to hire him, calling them “men who chose to change that pattern because it was not democratic, it was not American, it was not human.”


I honestly believe that if you do not like Sidney Poitier in some capacity, then you are just a strange person.