Poitier is focus of film festival opening today

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Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

May 13, 2004|By Michael Sragow

The third Maryland African American Film Festival opens at 7:30 p.m. today at the Heritage CinemaPlex (1045 Taylor Ave.) with Uptown Saturday Night, director Sidney Poitier's genial ensemble comedy starring Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor. It was the Barbershop of its day - a good-natured hit signaling (as film historian Donald Bogle has written) that "audiences enjoyed watching black actors working well with one another" in settings as un-hyped and familiar as a church picnic.

The festival's four-part tribute to Poitier also includes his directorial debut, the 1973 Western Buck and the Preacher, starring Poitier as the head of a wagon train for freed slaves and Belafonte as a scam-artist/preacher (Friday, 1 p.m.), and the 1951 drama Cry, the Beloved Country (Sunday, 1 p.m.), the first adaptation of Alan Paton's famous South African novel, with Poitier as a Johannesburg preacher and the great Canada Lee as a rural priest searching for his son in the city.

In between comes an ideal Saturday matinee (1 p.m.), the 1967 cop movie In the Heat of the Night . It features one of the classic comic-dramatic duets in movies: Poitier as ace homicide detective Virgil Tibbs and Rod Steiger as his reluctant partner, Sparta, Miss., sheriff Bill Gillespie.

Among two dozen other attractions, director Bruce Brown will introduce DC Divided City tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and Homicide star-turned-director Clark Johnson will introduce, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Boycott, his movie about the protests after Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat in the whites-only section of a Montgomery, Ala., bus.

Call 410 832 7685.

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