Harry Belafonte: Movies, Race, Defiance @British Film Institute
This African Odysseys season celebrates the life and work of the legendary actor, singer, producer and activist.
Across a 70-year career in film, Harry Belafonte’s slate as an actor, compared to fellow trailblazer Sidney Poitier, was significantly less prolific. Yet his balancing of the roles of artist and activist, across show business and campaigning, is unmatched in Hollywood. His was a lifetime of righteous fervour and his epochal struggles for freedom, democracy and equality (against fascism, racial apartheid, McCarthyism, nuclear war, guns and more) are epitomised by the prominent place he held in the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. In his rear-view, he saw his mentor Paul Robeson squeezed into penury and illness for his radical stances by vengeful and hostile government forces. But he forged on with ‘fierce optimism’. He had the bulwark of wealth as a successful singer. His film work was independent-minded and uncompromising. He believed that good art always served ideas that challenged the status quo, and with maverick directors, including Preminger, Wise, Altman and Lee, he bore this out.
Burt Caesar, season curator
Presented by African Odysseys