Lilies of the Field (1963)
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- 94 min.
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In Lilies of the Field, Sidney Poitier is only passing through when he stops for water in a desert town and gets suckered, again and again, into staying so he can build a church for a group of immigrant nuns. Why he lets it happen changes as time goes on, but is mostly stated through performance (one that won Poitier an Oscar) rather than overt dialog. On the face of it, there's sweet relationship that develops between Poitier's Homer Smith and the nuns, and the story speaks to the power of community, for which the church is a focus. There's also a darker interpretation, where it's a metaphor for American history. Immigrants try to tame the wilderness, rope in the black man (and later, migrant Latinos) into working for them for free, the sanctuary afforded those people by faith, and a certain emancipation by the end as Homer (the traveler, natch) takes possession of the project and declares his freedom. It's harder to like the nuns when we put this filter on the film, but only from an intellectual point of view. The sweetness, humor and community positivism are all real and heartfelt in the literal story you're watching. A smile during, a heady conversation after.
A very pleasant and joyful film!
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #46 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers
This movie ranks #242 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #847 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry