October 12, 2010 — The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier will be honored at the 38th Annual Chaplin Award Gala on the evening of Monday, May 2, 2011. The event will be attended by a host of notable guests and celebrities honoring the film legend's groundbreaking career and will feature film and television clips commemorating his prolific career as both an actor and as a director, culminating in the presentation of The Chaplin Award.


The announcement was made prior to the New York Film Festival's Closing Night Gala screening of Clint Eastwood's HEREAFTER to the capacity crowd at Alice Tully Hall by the president of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Daniel H. Stern.


“The Board is very excited to have Sidney Poitier as the next recipient of The Chaplin Award,” said Ann Tenenbaum, The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Board Chairman. “His is truly a legendary career, in which he has not simply entertained audiences but been apart of films that indeed helped change our world for the better. It will be an honor to showcase his amazing body of work.”


The Film Society's Annual Gala began in 1972 and honored Charles Chaplin – who returned to the US from exile to accept the commendation. Since then, the award has been renamed for Chaplin, and has honored many of the film industry's most notable talents, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and most recently, Michael Douglas.


“It will be an honor to give Sidney Poitier his proper place among our list of past honorees. I am really looking forward to creating an evening truly befitting this cherished film legend, as we celebrate Sidney's career achievements among friends and fans,” said Liz Swig, Gala co-chair and Film Society Board Member.


An actor and director with a career spanning more than five decades in theatre, film, and television, Poitier made his film debut in 1950 with the classic NO WAY OUT. Poitier's films in the fifties, notably CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (1952), BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) and THE DEFIANT ONES (1958), for which Poitier was nominated for an Academy Award, were frequently controversial for the time and often addressed issues of racial equality both home and abroad.


In 1961 Poitier would reprise a role he played on the Broadway stage for theHollywood adaptation of A RAISIN IN THE SUN. In 1963, Poitier's performance in LILLIES OF THE FIELD, earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. It marked the first time a black man had been so honored.

Following this success, Poitier's film career continued to be marked by projects that were not shy to hold a mirror up to issues dealing with race. A PATCH OF BLUE (1965), IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967) addressed black/white conflicts and modern society's evolving thoughts regarding interracial romance as well.


The 1970s began a period in which Poitier made a shift from acting to directing beginning with BUCK AND THE PREACHER (1972), UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (1974), LET'S DO IT AGAIN (1975), and the classic comedy STIR CRAZY (1980), starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

After a decade away from acting, Poitier returned to the screen in 1988 for SHOOT TO KILL and LITTLE NIKITA. Poitier also brought his talents to television, notably portraying Thurgood Marshall in “Separate But Equal” (1991) and then Nelson Mandela in the 1997 television docudrama “Mandela and De Klerk.”


Born in 1927 in Miami, Florida, Sidney Poitier grew up in the small village of Cat Island, Bahamas. His father, a poor tomato farmer, moved the family to the capital,Nassau, when Poitier was eleven. It was there that he first encountered cinema. Even at a young age, he recognized the ability of cinema to expand one's view of reality. At the age of sixteen, Poitier moved to New York and found a job as a dishwasher. Soon after, he began working as a janitor for the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons.


Poitier is married to Joanna Shimkus. They have two children, Anika Poitier and Sydney Tamiia Poitier. Poitier has four children; Beverly Poitier-Henderson, Pamela Poitier, Sherri Poitier and Gina Poitier Gouraige, from an earlier marriage.