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Sir Sidney Poitier Tribute Award



Nassau, Bahamas – April 8, 2015 – The Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) announced today that Academy Award® winner and renowned global icon Sir Sidney Poitier has agreed to the naming of the prestigious Career Achievement Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival the “Sir Sidney Poitier Tribute Award.” BIFF founder and executive director Leslie Vanderpool made the announcement.


“There is no person on Earth who is better suited to have the Career Achievement Award be named after him,” Vanderpool said. “Poitier is one of the finest actors for generations and is, simply put, an icon and a legend.” The American Film Institute named him among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.


Poitier stretched his reach within the industry on film and on stage acting in productions such as ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ (1959) and ‘Lysistrata.’ For his film role in ‘The Defiant Ones,’ Poitier was the first male actor of African descent to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award in 1958. A few years later in 1964, Poitier was the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a riveting and memorable performance as Homer Smith in Ralph Nelson’s ‘Lilies of The Field.’


Thirty-eight years after receiving the Best Actor award, Poitier received an honorary tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being. In 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.


A global legend, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968 and highly respected author, director and “actor’s actor,” with more than fifty films and television shows to his credit, Poitier has starred in some of Hollywood’s most important and biggest films and earned critics’ praise for several commanding performances. Poitier’s reputation solidified with leading roles in mainstream films: ‘No Way Out’ (1950), ‘Blackboard Jungle’ (1955), ‘The Bedford Incident’ and ‘A Patch Of Blue’ (1965). The most successful films that catapulted Poitier’s career in 1967 where, ‘To Sir with Love,’ ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and ‘In the Heat of the Night.


Directing was not far away from his achievements having a directorial debut with the western ‘Buck and the Preacher’ soon followed by ‘Uptown Saturday Night,’ ‘Let’s Do It Again,’ ‘A Piece Of The Action,’Stir Crazy,’ ‘ Hanky Panky,’Fast Forward’ and ‘Ghost Dad.’


From 1995 to 2003, Poitier served as a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company. Proud to represent The Bahamas, Sir Sidney was the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan, a position held from 2002 to 2007, while being the Ambassador of The Bahamas to UNESCO.


What makes this addition so momentous is that he is a Bahamian who believes in building future generations of filmmakers while honoring the actors and actresses who broke ground, furthermore, upholding their careers with poise. Sir Sidney possesses a true love and appreciation for the people of The Bahamas.


One of the Bahamas International Film Festival’s missions is to ensure youth in The Bahamas have the opportunity to remember Sir Sidney while celebrating the achievements of others within the film industry.


“Leslie Vanderpool’s efforts have been extraordinary in making it possible for The Bahamas to have not only a film festival, but to also attract some of the great film artists and filmmakers from around the world.  People like Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Glover, Alan Arkin, Sir Sean Connery, Sophie Okonedo, Lee Daniels, Lenny Kravitz and my own daughter Sydney Tamiia Poitier, who have found, to their great surprise, that the Bahamas is moving swiftly toward a bona fide motion picture community--all of which have been structured by the imaginative young Bahamians who have committed themselves to The Bahamas having a film community of its own,” Poitier said.

Adding to his many achievements, Poitier has published four best sellers ‘This Life,’ ‘The Measure of A Man,’Life Beyond Measure: Letters to my Great-Grand Daughter’ and ‘Montaro Caine’.  Additionally, he has many talents having recorded an album with the composer Fred Katz called ‘Poitier Meets Plato’ reciting passages from Plato’s writings.


Family is most important for Sir Sidney, He and his wife Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian-born former actress of Lithuanian and Irish descent have two daughters Anika and Sydney Tamiia Poitier. Poitier has four daughters Beverly, Pamela, Sherri and Gina from a previous marriage. In addition to his six daughters, Poitier has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Leslie Vanderpool and Sydney T. Poitier will be instrumental in overseeing the granting of the Sir Sidney Poitier Tribute Awards. More information to be revealed very soon.


About Leslie Vanderpool:

Leslie Vanderpool is the founder and executive director of Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF). For over a decade, she has had extensive knowledge in the planning and development of film festivals. Vanderpool received a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations before going on to pursue her passion for theater & filmmaking. She studied at Lee Strasberg Acting Institute & Shakespeare at Balliol College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, where Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw and many more honed her skills.


In 2004, Vanderpool launched BIFF, which has showcased more than 800 films from 150 countries. Many of the films subsequently have won Academy Awards. She has paid tribute to A-List Celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Debra Messing, Danny Glover, Nicholas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Alan Arkin,  Sean Connery, Roger Corman, Daryl Hannah, Sophie Okonedo, Anna Faris, Naomie Harris, Zoe Kravitz, Sydney T. Poitier, Chaz Ebert and many more.

She has been innovative in taking filmmaking into schools where she has taught all aspects of filmmaking. Vanderpool has created unique cultural experiences such as ‘Summer Films In The Square’ and ‘Theater In The Park.’


Vanderpool is an entrepreneur with a strong background in marketing, branding, film production and sponsorship. She has raised millions of dollars & has a wide range of networks around the world. She spends her time between California and The Bahamas to advance the film industry while partnering with startups and established film production companies.


About Sydney Tamiia Poitier:

Sydney T. Poitier is the daughter of ‘Oscar winning’ actor Sidney Poitier and Joanna Shimkus. A graduate from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, Poitier was featured as one of People Magazine’s ‘50 Most Beautiful People in 2001.’ Her film credits are many having won Best Actress for ‘Nine Lives’ at the Lorcarno International Film Festival and where she was nominated for Best Ensemble Cast for the Gotham Awards. Poitier appeared in a leading role in the film, ‘Death Proof,’ directed by Quentin Tarantino and co-starring Kurt Russell. Poitier also appeared in ‘The List’ for which she was nominated for Outstanding Actress at the Image Awards.


Her television credits include ‘Private Practice,’ ‘Knight Rider,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Joan Of Arcadia,’ ‘Abby’ and ‘Free Of Eden’ where she co-starred with her father Sidney Poitier. She is the wife to Dorian Heartsong and the mother of a beautiful daughter.


About the Bahamas International Film Festival:

Entering in its twelfth year, the Bahamas International Film Festival established itself as a marquee international film festival in the Caribbean region, discovering and promoting independent voices and talent from The Bahamas and around the world, showcasing diverse international films. In addition to showcasing films that might not otherwise be released theatrically, BIFF provides unique cultural experiences, educational programs and forums for exploring the past, present and future of cinema. BIFF aims to raise the level of filmmaking, participation and education throughout The Bahamas and the world.

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