Alex & Ali

Alex & Ali

This film is a fascinating symphony of tragedy. It is a story of the relationship of two older gay men separated by time, culture, location, politics and fear. Alex and Ali met in Pre-revolutionary Iran. Alex was with the Peace Corp and met Ali through his work there. Alex became a valued friend of Ali's family and eventually, he and Ali became lovers. The Iranian Revolution occurred and Alex is forced to flee Iran.

The film begins with an excited Alex planning a reunion with Ali after 34 years apart. Memories and stories flow from Alex about the days passed. Following the Revolution, the two men were not able to communicate for ten years due to the conditions within Iran, but once they were reconnected, their relationship re-kindled, although from afar. Through the years there were frequent letters and phone calls and the two held their relationship together as best they could as each continued their lives on different sides of the planet.

Alex is an openly gay man living in North Carolina. Ali is closeted gay man taking care of an extended family under an oppressive regime in Teheran. The plan to reunite after 34 years is a complicated one due mainly to the rigid internal politics of Iran. The two decide that the best place to reunite is Turkey. It is relatively easy for Ali to cross into Turkey and from there the possibility of continuing on to live with Alex in the US has a greater chance of coming to fruition.

As Ali goes through Customs on his way to Istanbul, a bag he is carrying is seized, yet he is allowed to continue his journey. The bag contains letters he had sent Alex through the years, some of them containing derogatory statements about the Iranian regime. There is also a document to be used to gain asylum to the US. This unfortunate turn of events, with the very real possibility of reprisals, dampers the reunion from the start.

After an awkward first meeting at the airport in Istanbul, the two settle into a hotel and begin to catch up after a separation of 34 years. They tour the city which is a treat for the film viewer, but it is immediately apparent that Ali is distracted. The loving, time-erasing reunion which Alex had pictured just doesn't happen. Ali worries about his future and comes close to ignoring Alex on their strolls through the city and interaction at the hotel and various restaurants.

A phone call from home gives Ali the worse news possible. The police raided his house and he is suddenly a man in trouble. Although there is nothing available to the Iranian authorities to reveal his gayness....which would probably mean execution, Ali's writings are enough to land him in prison should he go back to Iran.

A frenzy of calls to NGOs regarding asylum in the US for Ali take place, but his best chance revolves around admitting he is gay and thus being a member of an oppressed minority.......something Ali is not willing to do. Ali's fear grows.

To a shattered Alex, Ali admits that if he'd known about changes between the two and the trouble with this travels, he would have never come to Turkey.

Without giving away too much (because you really should see this film), an anguished Ali finally decides that in addition to his lack of expected feelings for Alex, the process of trying to enter the U.S. is just too great, and he returns to Iran to face his fate.

The true story of international intrigue, the beauty of the backdrop of Istanbul and the tragedy of a love story gone bad make this a documentary you should not miss. You won't walk away with a warm, fuzzy feeling, but you will leave with a concentrated view of the human condition.