(2021) Sports Documentary (Hey Jude) Aulcie Perry, Wayne Tyre, Tami Ben Ami, Shamluk, Juanita Jackson, Roy Young, Bernadine Perry-Davis, Simmy Riguer, Rafi Ginali, Zvi Sher, Aulas Recanati, Tal Brody, Alexander Wolff, Aulcie Perry Jr., Shmulik Zysman, Earl Williams, Moshe Gertel, Shalom Rokach, Amos Ettinger, Cierra. Directed by Dani Menkin
Aulcie Perry who graduated from Bethune Cookman in Daytona Beach, had about as marvelous a career in basketball as it is possible to have without being in the NBA. He was drafted by the Virginia Squires in the ABA prior to the 1974-75 and the New York Knicks in the NBA and was cut from both teams – from the latter, he was the last player cut before the 1975-76 season.
For a time, he played in the Eastern Basketball League (predecessor to the Continental Basketball Association, which was for many years the top professional basketball league in the country below the NBA) for the Allentown Jets before during the summer break in 1976 he was spotted playing in Harlem by a scout for Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the top pro clubs in Israel. In his rookie year, he led Maccabi to its first ever European Cub Championship, a prestigious tournament in which the champions of all the European leagues compete to see which team is the best in Europe (he would lead them to that title again four years later).
He also led Maccabi to league titles every year of the nine years he played for the team. He began dating Israeli supermodel Tami Ben Ami and the couple became the power couple of Israel in the late Seventies and early Eighties. He had everything going for him and he was so loved and accepted in Israel that he converted to Judaism and became an Israeli citizen. He was the Michael Jordan of European basketball.
But things didn’t stay idyllic. Injuries to his knee led him to use painkillers to even make it onto the court and before long he was hooked on them. He began to add cocaine and heroin to the list of drugs he was taking. Always something of a party person, he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. After missing a game against rival and fellow European superpower Real Madrid, his drug problems began to be noticeable and after a heroin possession charge, he was deported from Israel, ending his career. To make matters worse, he became involved in a scheme to bring heroin into the United States and ended up being convicted for it. He was given a ten-year sentence, although he served only half of that with time off for good behavior.
This documentary film covers all of that, but is more concerned with Perry’s redemption. It focuses largely on his attempts to reconnect with a daughter he’d fathered before going to Israel; the girl’s mother wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about letting Perry into her daughter’s life, at least to begin with. It also covers his return to Israel, and his acceptance back in that country after having been asked to leave.
The movie isn’t particularly innovative in how the story is told, using talking head interviews, archival footage and animated sequences (which to be honest tended to be intrusive and unhelpful to telling the story). Perry himself isn’t especially articulate, but the story manages to give the warm fuzzies in a few different places nonetheless.
So many times stories of the rise and fall of professional athletes (or musicians) tend to be downers. We see potential get wasted, lives ruined, relationships obliterated. We don’t always see redemption, but Aulcie achieved that and that’s no easy feat. Perry seems genuinely contrite and regretful about his past conduct, particularly in regards to his children (he also has a son who he did have a relationship with although it was rocky in places). There’s something to be said for a happy ending.
REASONS TO SEE: A lot more heart-warming than these types of films tend to be.
REASONS TO AVOID: Formatted pretty much like a standard sports documentary.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some drug content and brief mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: After being drafted by the New York Knicks, Perry stuck through camp, ending up being the last person cut. His success was such that the Golden State Warriors of the NBA offered him a contract but he turned it down, preferring to stay in Israel.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/12/2022: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Legend of Swee’ Pea
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: Hotel Mumbai