Screened as part of NZIFF 2021

Ailey 2021

Directed by Jamila Wignot

Director Jamila Wignot captures the bold and innovative spirit of Alvin Ailey, the legendary American dancer and choreographer, in this deftly handled documentary.

USA In English
82 minutes DCP



Alvin Ailey
George Faison
Judith Jamison


Jamila Wignot
Lauren DeFilippo


Naiti Gámez


Annukka Lilja


Daniel Bernard Roumain


Sundance, CPH:DOX, Tribeca 2021


“In Ailey the body in motion serves as a canvas. Arms twisting, heads swaying, torsos rolling and feet tapping the floors conjure wells of emotion – pain, lust, sadness and joy. Directed by Jamila Wignot, this stunning documentary chronicles the rich life of Alvin Ailey, the American dance giant, choreographer and founder of the innovative Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Wignot handles details of the legend’s tumultuous biography with great care, honoring his talents while acknowledging the toll they took on him. But perhaps the greatest gift of this tightly conceived and beautiful doc lies in its appreciation of the divinity of dance...

Wignot animates the chronological telling of Ailey’s story with videos of dance pieces that reflect different periods of his life. The choice adds a unique energy to the doc and reaffirms Ailey’s role as a translator. From an early age, he possessed an acute awareness of and fascination with bodies in motion. He understood dance as a tool for expression, a vehicle for building community and a way to embody unfettered freedom... 

Wignot outlines the success of Ailey’s company and paints a delicate portrait of the artist’s life. Toward the end of Ailey, a darker thematic element emerges: The choreographer’s ascent and growing celebrity became the primary driver of the deep isolation and sense of loneliness he felt. The filmmaker does not shy away from this melancholic arc, and it makes the doc all the richer. One walks away admiring not just the film’s subject, but its director, too.” — Lovia Gyarkye, Hollywood Reporter