‘Sidney’ does justice to Sidney Poitier’s remarkable life and trailblazing career

In theory there’s only so much to be done with a celebrity biography, but when the subject is Sidney Poitier, that’s an unusually target-rich environment.

“Sidney,” a documentary from director Reginald Hudlin produced by Oprah Winfrey, does the actor justice, providing context, depth and considerable warmth in chronicling his remarkable life and trailblazing career.

Counting the actor’s widow, Joanna Shimkus Poitier, and daughter Anika among its executive producers, the project is appropriately celebratory of Poitier’s accomplishments but maintains enough distance to cover the more complex aspects of his story.

Still, Poitier’s rise from his humble beginnings in the Bahamas, immigrating to Florida and then New York to become Hollywood’s first Black leading man, requires little embellishment, and represents one of those rare biographies where a single not-quite-two-hour movie almost doesn’t feel like enough.

Poitier stumbled into acting, where his striking looks and dignified manner allowed him to escape the pitfalls associated with those Black actors relegated to clownish or peripheral roles who preceded him.

As Morgan Freeman puts it (just one of a who’s who of talent enlisted to discuss him), Poitier “never played a subservient part,” turning down a movie he objected to early in his career, when he could have used the money as his wife was about to have a baby.