Skip to main content
In the Heat of the Night film image

In the Heat of the Night

Black History Month: Icons

Book Now Book Now

Sidney Poitier was the most important Black screen actor of the twentieth century, but if he had only made this one film it would have been enough. His performance as Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation in Sparta, Mississippi, is a master class in authority, intelligence, and self-restraint… but even more remarkable for the brief flash of indignant rage which boils over once or twice, including an indelible moment when he returns the slap of a rich white man. This isn’t just a model Negro, this is a man, susceptible to anger and to arrogance. (So too, Rod Steiger’s local sheriff, who is so much more than the sum of his racist upbringing.) By this point, Poitier had been a leading man for a decade, and he had notched up a landmark Academy Award. This movie – a smart, probing crime thriller directed by Canadian Norman Jewison – would help make him the #1 box office star in America in 1968, according to film exhibitors.

The film was fashioned to reflect the tensions and turmoil of the Civil Rights era, but it more than holds up today. Quincy Jones contributes a fine score (with Ray Charles lending vocals to the title track). Working in colour for the first time, DP Haskell Wexler creates a hot neo-noir atmosphere that’s evocative and exact (watch for the close ups of black hands on white skin). Hal Ashby won an Academy Award for his editing. But it’s the Poitier / Steiger duel which is so magnetic. Writing about it later, Poitier said watching Steiger do his thing helped to teach him, after 15 years in the business, “What screen acting could be.”


Norman Jewison


Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant

Country of Origin







Winner: 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Steiger)

110 min

Book Tickets

Sunday February 05

7:30 pm
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now



Walter Mirisch


Stirling Silliphant


Haskell Wexler


Hal Ashby

Original Music

Quincy Jones

Art Director

Paul Groesse

Catch More Black History Month Programming

Also in Icons

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

This boisterous comedy about a breakaway barnstorming Black baseball team in the 1930s should be better known. It's an entertaining gloss on one enterprising ball player's resourceful response to segregated leagues, with Star Wars' Billy Dee Williams.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Purple Rain

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called Prince. Purple Rain is everything you could want from a rock film, and more - it's sexy, sassy, slick and it captures the young Prince in the raw.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Under the Cherry Moon (35mm)
Under the Cherry Moon film image

Under the Cherry Moon (35mm)

Prince is Christopher Tracy, a gigolo on the French Riviera, determined to seduce $50 million heiress Kristin Scott Thomas (!). The pop star's directorial debut is a quirky, fun throwback to old school Hollywood glamour, with knobs on.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Viola Davis is immense in Steve McQueen's gripping crime story. When her husband dies in a shootout with Chicago PD, Veronica inherits his $2 million debt to a local mobster, and a notebook with plans to rip-off the vault of a local politico.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Black Panther

The most important movie Marvel has made to date, this Black blockbuster is a triumph for Creed director Ryan Coogler and star Chadwick Boseman. After the death of his father, T'Challa returns to the African nation of Wakanda to take his place as king.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Dear Jackie (Free Screening)

Henri Pardo's film is a cinematic letter to Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in Major League Baseball and a civil rights activist who broke the colour barrier when he joined the minor-league Montreal Royals in 1946. For a short time, the impossible seemed possible in a segregated North America.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre
James Baldwin Abroad: Istanbul - Paris - London
James Baldwin Abroad film image

James Baldwin Abroad: Istanbul - Paris - London

These three short docs, from 1968 - 1973, offer sharp, piercing glimpses of Baldwin in private and public, sometimes in repose and relaxed but more often holding forth, embroiled in the thorny discourse of racial politics, identity and self expression.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

"This Time It's Personal" Films by Camille Billops & James Hatch (Programme 1)

Trailblazing artist and polymath Camille Billops and her partner James Hatch were courageous independent filmmakers who chronicled the ups and downs of their personal lives and family histories, and found in them the temperature of their times.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

"This Time It's Personal" Films by Camille Billops & James Hatch (Programme 2)

The second programme in our short selection of independent films by Camille Bishops and James Hatch includes what is probably their masterpiece, Finding Christa, a deeply personal film about Camille's relationship with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a child.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Our Dance of Revolution

Award-winning documentary on the history of Black queer activism in Toronto, on communities that have faced every adversity from invisibility to police brutality.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

New Releases


Brown's moving film zeroes in on the descendants of the 110 slaves brought in on the last known slave ship to transport kidnapped Africans to America as human cargo, an illegal shipment undertaken as a bet by a local landowner, Timothy Meaher.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Saint Omer

Alice Diop’s superb film, based on a notorious case of infanticide from a few years ago, subtly, almost surreptitiously evokes complex ideas and emotions around motherhood, gender, and marginalized communities.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Chien Blanc

Living in LA in 1968, French novelist Romain Gary adopts a stray Alsation, but to his horror discovers it has been trained to attack Blacks. His wife, the actress Jean Seberg argues it must be put down, but Gary insists it can be retrained...

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre