NEW YORK (AP) – In 1963, Sidney Poitier made a film in Arizona, “Lilies of the Field.” The show led to a huge cornerstone: He became the first black winner to win an Oscar.
Arizona is now the site of another stage in the career of the legendary actor and director – Arizona State University named its new film school after him. New American film school of Sydney Poitiers was unveiled at a virtual ceremony on Monday.
The decision to name the school of 93-year-old Poitiers is much more than his achievements and legacy, but because he “embodies in his own person what we strive to be ̵
“You are looking for an icon, a person who embodies everything you stand for,” Crowe said in an earlier interview. “With Sydney Poitier, it’s his creative energy, his dynamism, his aspiration, his ambition, the types of projects he’s worked on, the ways he’s advanced his life.”
“Look at his life: It’s the story of a man who found a way,” he said of the Miami-born actor, who grew up in the Bahamas, the son of tomato farmers, before embarking on a career that began with small, hard-earned theater parts to a possible Hollywood star. “How to help other young people find their way?”
The university, which is expanding its existing film program into its own school, says it has invested millions of dollars in technology to create what is intended to be one of the largest, most accessible and most diverse film schools. Crowe said that, like the wider university, the film school would measure success not by exclusivity but by inclusion.
By expanding both its physical resources and flexible learning opportunities such as online learning, it hopes to enroll thousands more students, teaching them skills that go far beyond traditional filmmaking.
The school will move in the fall of 2022 to a new facility in downtown Mesa, Arizona, 11 miles from the campus of the University of Tempe. He will also occupy the new center of the University of Los Angeles.
The university did not make Poitiers, who has not been in the public eye for some time, available for an interview. His daughter, Beverly Poitier-Henderson, told the Associated Press that her father was “doing well and enjoying his family” and considered it an honor to be the namesake of the new film school.
Poitiers-Henderson and two of Poitiers’ other daughters describe in interviews how the film school’s focus on inclusion and access is in line with their father’s long-held ideals.
“If it has my father’s name on it, it should be included, because that’s the basis of who he is and what he stands for,” said Annika Poitier, like her father, a director. “And it’s important not only to be involved, but also to have diversity and to give people the opportunity to tell their stories. I think it is imperative to cast a wide net and allow anyone who is called to tell their story to learn how to do it.
Sydney Poitier Heartsong, the actor’s youngest daughter, noted that the two most important things for her father as she grew up were education and the arts.
“These are the two songs that move throughout his life that determine what he contributed and determine what he thought was important to pass on to his children,” she said. “The arts were also a form of learning. He wanted to pass this on to all young people, but especially to people of color. “
Poitier Heartsong, who followed in his father’s footsteps in acting, added that the new school had a special resonance at a time when “we realized that from a socio-economic point of view, many (elite) schools exclude disproportionately colored people – and people without means to go to them. This is the antithesis of what my father would like to be a part of. “
And she noted that in Poitiers’ heyday, when he won his Oscar, one of his biggest complaints was that he was the only one up there and wanted others upstairs with him. Well, others can’t be there with him if they don’t have access to these tools and these educations. Not the way the world works today. ”
ASU film production programs already include 700 students, said Stephen Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute of Design and Arts there, but that number is expected to double in three to five years.
“I just hope the students at the Sydney Poitiers Film School take the mantle of responsibility the way our father took the mantle when he went up in his career,” said Poitier-Henderson, “and tell their stories regardless of finances, which it is easy for us to say. But you have to be true to yourself. This is a very powerful thing and I look forward to seeing who will come out of it. ”
During the virtual opening, Poetier’s longtime friend Harry Belafonte appeared with a congratulatory message, calling Poitiers “a dear human being and a wonderful American citizen.”