Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger
Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger starred in “In the Heat of the Night.”

In 1967, one year before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Sidney Poitier played police detective Virgil Tibbs in the film adaptation of “In the Heat of the Night,” based on the 1965 novel by John Ball.

Tidewater Community College and its Roper Performing Arts Center will present this groundbreaking film on Feb. 15 at 3 p.m. It will be followed at 5 p.m. by a discussion with local leaders on the film’s relevance today in examining relationships between law enforcement and minority communities, in light of headlines from such cities as Ferguson, Mo., New York City, and Cleveland.

The film and panel discussion are free and open to the public.

Directed by Norman Jewison, “In the Heat of the Night” crossed fraught political lines, marking one of the first times in a motion picture that an African American man reacted to – rather than accepted – provocation from a white man. The film, a murder mystery entwined with the racial prejudices of 1960s Mississippi, won five Academy Awards and spawned a hugely popular television series.

“`In the Heat of the Night’ is a very important film from the Civil Rights Era,” said Paul Lasakow, Roper Center director. “It dovetails beautifully with this year’s Black History Month theme, ‘A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.’ I’m very proud that the Roper is making it available to our community.”

The panel will be moderated by Barbara Ciara of WTKR NewsChannel 3. Panelists are:

  • Larry Boone, assistant chief, Norfolk Police
  • Joe Dillard Jr., president of the Norfolk Branch of the NAACP
  • Mike Mather, WTKR NewsChannel 3 police reporter
  • Barbara Hamm Lee, host of “Another View” on WHRV-FM
  • Eric Hayes, faculty advisor of TCC’s Student African American Brotherhood

A live theater performance of “In the Heat of the Night” by the L.A. Theatre Works will be presented at the Roper Center on Feb. 20. Information and tickets.