Alex And Ali (2014)

MALACHI LEOPOLD

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  USA, 2014.  John M. Bennett Productions, Left Brain Right Brain Productions.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Film Editing by .  

Living in Tehran for ten years as a member of the Peace Corps in the early seventies, Alex had a love affair with handsome young Ali that has kept them joined at the heart ever since he was forced to leave when the revolution began, and at the beginning of this documentary, they have not seen each other for thirty-five years.  Alex’s nephew Malachi, moved by the story, has made this record of the two men attempting to reunite, even though leaving his home country is nearly impossible for Ali, and both men are certainly far older and their lives more difficult in the years since they were together.  Alex is living with HIV, while Ali has to keep his sexuality under wraps in a country where the admission of it could result in a terrible beating by the authorities if not actual death.  The plan is to bring them together in Istanbul, possibly with the chance of Ali escaping permanently and making a new home in America, but what will happen when they are reunited?  Can love from decades ago simply pick up where it left off, or does the passage of time in between take people to different places?  Immensely moving scenes are not served exceptionally well by the workmanlike nature of this documentary, which observes plenty but investigates nothing.  Ali is a particularly frustrating participant as we never get to know him well except mainly through Alex’s memories of him, which is naturally the result of the unfair advantage of opportunities to interview one over the other.  What could be an exploration of the power of memory over reality, or a look into the conflict within Ali as he is faced with a choice between his heart and his culture, is instead cut off when the result of their meeting is completed.  The film documents an all-around tragedy (particularly the devastating conclusion for Ali), and as such is an important record of the way in which politics interrupts the rights of human beings, but it could afford to go a lot deeper.

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