To Sir, with Love
James Clavell, 1967, United Kingdom, 105m
Sidney Poitier had already amassed years of acclaim and accolades—including the first Oscar for Best Actor ever awarded to a Black man—when, in 1967, he starred in three box-office hits whose commercial and critical success cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most beloved movie stars. The first of these was To Sir, with Love, in which Poitier made an indelible impression as Mark Thackeray, a Guianese engineer newly arrived in London’s East End who takes up a temporary teaching job at an under-resourced, overcrowded inner-city high school. Unfazed by the weary indifference of his (mostly white) colleagues and the jaded hostility of his students, Thackeray strives to make a difference in the lives of the teenagers in his charge. In Poitier’s unforgettable turn, the character emerges as quietly heroic yet unfailingly human—a balancing act none but Poitier could pull off with such grace and nuance.
Following the screening of To Sir, with Love, join us for a conversation about the legacy of Sidney Poitier and the figure of the Black movie star with scholars Racquel Gates, Michael Gillespie, and Samantha Sheppard, moderated by filmmaker and critic Tayler Montague.