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By Ray Lobo | November 22, 2021

Director Dani Menkin’s documentary, Aulcie, chronicles the highs and lows of Aulcie Perry’s life. Perry grew up on the rough streets of Newark, New Jersey. He witnessed crime, gangs, and drug use all around him. Basketball gave Perry his ticket out, and the New York Knicks signed him in 1976. However, the team cut him, which prevented him from ever setting foot on an NBA court.

As luck would have it, an Israeli scout spotted him and proposed a move to Israel to play for the professional basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv. Perry was Maccabi’s talisman, and they won several championships thanks to him. Perry was part Michael Jordan and part Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One would think that a six-foot-ten African-American in the late 1970s/early 80s Israel would have been a recipe ripe for bigotry and maladjustment. However, that was not the case. Perry became a hero, a celebrity, and was considered a son of Israel. He so took to the country and the people that he married an Israeli model and converted to Judaism. Even when the NBA came knocking again in the form of the Golden State Warriors, he told them thanks but no thanks and stayed with Maccabi in Israel.

However, the things you run away from are precisely those that circle back into your life and ensnare you. Fame brought along its predictable twin: drug use. When age started catching up with Perry, and his knees started becoming a liability, he became addicted to pain pills, hash, and heroin. In what ultimately became the last straw, he did not show up to the arena for a game against Real Madrid. Instead, he was passed out from drugs in his home. And then, there was the Amsterdam incident in which he was accused of drug trafficking and given a ten-year sentence to be served in the United States. And just like that, Perry’s life crumbled, and he was caught up in the sphere of everything he had wanted to avoid growing up in Newark.

“…an Israeli scout spotted him and proposed a move to Israel to play for the professional basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

Aulcie Perry’s life is undeniably compelling. His acceptance by Israelis and his assimilation into Israeli culture are ripe for exploration. However, there isn’t anything overwhelmingly unique in the way the director constructs Aulcie. It predictably checks all the boxes of fish-out-of-water tales. It also hits the conventions of every ride, downfall, and redemption tale one can think of.

In addition, it covers the same ground as other documentaries revolving around Americans playing in foreign basketball leagues. The Iran Job is a documentary chronicling basketball player Kevin Sheppard’s time playing in Iran. Sheppard’s story may have been even more compelling than the one presented here, given the more prominent culture shock Sheppard faced in Iran. As such, this very particular narrative is tinged with a sense of been there, done that.

The bulk of Aulcie is devoted to the time Perry spent in Israel as a professional athlete, but it’s framed by his attempt to reconnect with his long-lost daughter forty years after his stint in Israel. Unfortunately, it must be said that these moments feel awkward. The momentum of the basketball/drug use sections halts here, and it isn’t nearly as compelling.

Perry’s life was indeed extraordinary, however, the documentary falls a bit short compared to the man. Undoubtedly, Dani Menkin has noble aspirations for Aulcie but fails to maintain interest for the entire runtime.

Aulcie (2021)

Directed and Written: Dani Menkin

Starring: Aulcie Perry, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

Aulcie Image

"…Perry's life is undeniably compelling."

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