×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

My Name Is Not Ali

This footnote to Werner Fassbinder's ouevre should intrigue the many arthouse types still fascinated by the director's films and life.

With:
With: Renate Leiffer, Irm Hermann, Karl Scheydt, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmuller, Abd El-Kader Jarrary, Zeina Jarrary, Reqaya Zkoura, Najat Ghribi, Chadhila Zkoura, Ahmed Lecomte, Hafsia Mellaim, Hamdan Jarrary, Zakia Jarrary, Nikolaus Notter, Marie Odile Notter, Thea Eymesz. (German, Arabic dialogue)

El Hedi Ben Salem M’barek Mohammed Mustafa, star of “Fear Eats the Soul: Ali,” and among the more tragic figures swept up in and discarded by Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s creative clique, is afforded a postmortem appreciation of sorts in “My Name Is Not Ali.” Yet the subject remains a frustrating enigma in Viola Shafik’s documentary, which interviews former co-workers and North African relatives in an attempt to shed light on a figure it seems few got — or bothered — to know well. Nonetheless, this footnote to Fassbinder’s ouevre should intrigue the many arthouse types still fascinated by the director’s films and life.

The man primarily known as Salem was a well-born Moroccan who had already fathered three children by a wife he married at 15 (she was two years younger) when he decided to seek his fortunes in Europe. At a Paris cafe in 1972, he met Fassbinder and members of his already notorious, incestuous entourage. The dark, handsome, reserved stranger quickly became Fassbinder’s new lover and the latest addition to that floating creative ensemble.

Over the next three years Salem appeared in several of the group’s films and plays, most notably playing the titular figure in 1974 anti-racism drama “Ali.” But he quickly became a victim of — and party to — his benefactor’s drug- and alcohol-fueled rages. Amid all this, Salem inexplicably brought his two young sons north, to their mother’s still-unforgiving grief. Thrown into foreign cultures without language skills or any other preparation, one of the boys soon returned home, while the other was simply bounced irresponsibly from one temporary roof (including a reformatory) to another.

The most heart-rending material here is hearing that now middle-aged son recount without rancor what must have been a truly miserable formative experience. Eyebrow-raising moments come via the often surprisingly unenlightened racial attitudes aired even today by veterans of the Fassbinder circus who’ve lived to tell the tale (albeit in contradictory versions). Still invested in preserving their own roles in a now-legendary era, several seem eager to belittle supposed bit players like Salem (who nonetheless figured large enough that Fassbinder dedicated “Querelle” to him several years after severing ties). Meanwhile the subject’s relatives prefer to sanitize and sanctify his memory.

Somehow, amid all the chatter, the man himself remains a total cipher — it’s still unclear whether he was gay, bi or simply a sexual opportunist. Likewise, no one seems sure if his 1982 death in a French prison was due to suicide or a heart attack. (A written epitaph subscribes to the latter.)

The tech package, including myriad vintage film clips, is a tad unfocused and ramshackle, but serviceable.

My Name Is Not Ali

Documentary - Egypt-Germany

Production: A Mec Film production in association with Diogenes Film and Barbel Mauch Film. (International sales: Mec Film, Berlin.) Produced by Onsi Abou Self. Directed, edited by Viola Shafik.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Shafik; sound, Ahmed Gaber. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Documentaries), Aug. 28, 2012. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Renate Leiffer, Irm Hermann, Karl Scheydt, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmuller, Abd El-Kader Jarrary, Zeina Jarrary, Reqaya Zkoura, Najat Ghribi, Chadhila Zkoura, Ahmed Lecomte, Hafsia Mellaim, Hamdan Jarrary, Zakia Jarrary, Nikolaus Notter, Marie Odile Notter, Thea Eymesz. (German, Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Personal Tales From Hong Kong, China

    Personal Tales From Hong Kong and China Among the Asia Film Financing Forum Projects

    A brace of personal tales from China and Hong Kong are among the 23 projects vying for attention at the 17th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. Liu Miaomiao is a rare female ethnic Hui Muslim filmmaker. She came to international prominence with 1993’s “Chatterbox” that won the President of the Italian Senate’s Gold Medal [...]

  • Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year

    Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year She Takes Risks in Her Film Choices

    Josie Ho vows to master the art of calculated risk in the year 2019. As an actress and film producer, she is conscious of the choices of projects she makes: appearing in the new film by Japanese hotshot director Shinichiro Ueda, producing a new documentary feature while developing some 10 titles in the pipeline of [...]

  • FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to

    FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to iQIYI's Online Ambitions

    Tech and data play a huge role for iQIYI, China’s second-largest streaming platform, as a way to innovate and step out ahead of its competitors, iQIYI founder and CEO Yu Gong explained in a keynote speech Monday at FilMart. “We don’t see a lot of innovation-driven entertainment companies yet. We want to be the one,” [...]

  • Ted Sarandos and Thierry Fremaux'Okja' photocall,

    Despite Ongoing Peace Talks, Netflix Won't Have Any Movies at Cannes 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Although Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival continue quietly to negotiate a potential settlement to their differences, the streaming giant will be absent from the Croisette again this year with no film in or out of competition, Variety has learned. The ongoing talks between the two sides have been friendly, including a dinner in Los [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content