Aulcie


Aulcie Perry has much to reflect on, both good and bad.

(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

A Murder in Mansfield


Some father-son chats are more intense than others.

(2017) Documentary (Cabin Creek) Collier Landry, Dr. John Boyle, Rusty Cates, Matt Trammel, Annie Trammel, Mark Caudill, Susan Messmore, Dave Messmore, George Ziegler, Susan Ziegler, Dr. Dennis Marikis, Bryan Neff, Sylvia Neff, Michelle Barth. Directed by Barbara Kopple

On December 30, 1989, Noreen Boyle – wife of a popular and charismatic doctor in Mansfield, Ohio – disappeared. 26 days later, she was found wrapped in a green plastic tarp below a concrete basement in a home in Erie, Pennsylvania that her husband had bought for his pregnant mistress, intending to move in. Noreen had asked for a divorce prior to her disappearance.

The good doctor was accused of the crime and put on trial. Certainly there was evidence – he had purchased a jackhammer two days before his wife disappeared, for example – but the most damning testimony was that of his then 12-year-old son Collier whose composed, almost eerily adult demeanor won a lot of people over. He became something of a local hero and was instrumental in getting the conviction of his dad.

More than a quarter century later, Collier – now using the surname Landry – is an L.A.-based filmmaker who is returning home to Mansfield to get some closure. He had undergone an ordeal that was simply unimaginable, losing his mother and father and adopted sister all within days. He was completely and utterly alone. The detective on the case, David Messmore and his wife Susan, were eager to adopt the young boy and young Collier wanted to live with them but a judge ruled that the Ziegler family instead would raise Collier. The young man was devastated at first but eventually accepted the situation and became close to his adopted family which enabled him to remain in Mansfield and keep his friends close.

Collier wants to reconnect with the people important to him but also get closure from his dad who continued to maintain his innocence from prison for 26 years. After his first parole hearing, John Boyle changed his tune somewhat to claim that Noreen had fallen accidentally and hit her head and that he was only guilty of trying to cover it up. Collier doesn’t believe it. Neither do we.

It’s hard not to be inspired by Collier Landry. If you spoke to him on the street, you’d never know he has such an awful tragedy in his past. He seems pretty well-adjusted and grounded and as we get details about his father’s neglect and abusive behavior, it’s a wonder he didn’t indulge in a violent lifestyle himself. Landry is certainly the star of the show, from the video of his testimony from the 1990 trial of his father (at the age of 12, sounding and acting more like an adult than most adults in similar circumstances would) to the jailhouse interview with his dad in which he asks him point blank “What happened that night?” followed by “Are you a sociopath?” Landry and Kopple clearly think that he is and you can’t really disagree.

This isn’t a true crime documentary in the strictest sense, although there are elements of it. This isn’t like anything you routinely see on Investigation Discovery or 48 Hours. This is rather more about the journey of Collier Landry, how he overcame the demons of his childhood to lead a productive and satisfying life. One has to admire his resilience and even now, 26 years after the crime, the town of Mansfield clearly still holds him dear to their hearts as a radio interview early on in the movie illustrates.

And yet Landry is still haunting by the crime, as well he should be. He spends time talking to a psychiatrist and to his adopted parents, asking them for their advice on meeting up with his dad. The confrontation, which takes place in prison, is not really the emotional payoff you’d think. As with most things in life, it doesn’t go exactly as we might hope and while Collier professes that he got the closure that he needed, it wasn’t the closure that he wanted. Life is funny like that sometimes.

This isn’t among Koppel’s best work (last year’s Miss Sharon Jones! was) but it still approaches true crime from the point of view of those left behind to deal with the loss of loved ones, something we rarely get with any detail from documentaries. The finished product here feels a bit unfinished, if you get my drift – there’s a lot of the story that feels unexplored and perhaps too much emphasis was placed on Collier’s confrontation with his dad which while packing a dramatic punch conceptually doesn’t really deliver it in reality. The real attraction here is Collier Landry himself and more time should have been spent on his journey than on his father’s. Either way, this is compelling drama and for those who like both character studies or true crime documentaries there is something  there for both camps.

The film made it’s world premiere earlier this evening (as it was published) at the prestigious DOC NYC festival, the largest film festival in the world devoted to documentaries. It should be playing the film festival circuit in the upcoming months with possible a limited release afterwards; if what you read here sounds interesting to you, keep an eye out for it.

REASONS TO GO: Landry is an inspiring subject. The interviews are less talking heads and more friends catching up. This is a home movie in the best possible sense.
REASONS TO STAY: The movie would have been better without the soap opera elements.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief profanity, adult themes and some gruesome images of a murder victim.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Kopple has been making documentaries for more than 40 years, winning an Oscar for Harlan County USA.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/12/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Into the Abyss
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Sky and Ground