Saturday, June 13, 2020

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Aulcie

I’m pleased to be covering the 8th Annual Israel Film Center Festival at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, which is running virtually June 7th-14th.

Directed by Dani Menkin
Available June 7 – June 14

Sports provide a forum for people to root for their favorite teams and players, and there’s often an incredible energy that unites inhabitants of a particular geographic area and from other places who feel an affinity for a given team or athlete. Players sometimes achieve a cult fandom, which may change over the course of time when they switch teams, leagues, or even sports. Going to another country and becoming a star athlete can have a tremendous effect on a person, allowing them to feel more at home in a new place than they ever did where they were born and first lived.

Aulcie Perry grows up in Newark, New Jersey, standing tall at 6’ 10” and playing basketball in high school. An early career in American sports leads nowhere when he barely plays, but his fortunes change when he is recruited by a scout from Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1976. Aulcie becomes a celebrity champion for the Israeli team and a renowned figure in the country. His ensuing conversion to Judaism and high-profile relationship with an Israeli model are wondrous high points that pale in comparison to the devastation he experiences when drug addiction leads to incarceration in America for international drug smuggling.

This is a documentary that frames its subject as a man with many regrets. He recounts the incredible opportunity that he got to come to Israel and play for a country that greatly admired and respected him, which wasn’t the experience he had growing up as a black man in New Jersey. He laughs remembering how he met the love of his life because he was thrilled that she was so tall after being around the typically much shorter Israeli population. Among all the good memories, Aulcie emphasizes most that he would have made different choices had he known how things would turn out, something that he’s given another chance to do when he attempts to reconnect with the daughter he’s never met.

This is a smart closing night selection for the Israel Film Center Festival, showcasing an element of Israeli culture that isn’t often at the forefront in any sort of media. The connection that Aulcie was able to form with a country so different from his own and with a new religion is affirming, and it’s those positive associations that contributed to Aulcie’s recovery after his time in prison, among other influences. It’s hardly an expected story, but it is an intriguing and worthwhile portrait of a man whose life took him very different places than he ever thought it would.


1 comment:

Darshika said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.