Ailey (2021)


Ailey (2021)

Alvin Ailey was a visionary artist who found salvation through dance. An immersive portrait told in his own words and through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life, Ailey fully profiles this brilliant and enigmatic man who-when confronted by a world that refused to embrace him-was determined to build one that would.
IMDb   7.1 /10
Metacritic   76 %
Director Jamila Wignot
Release Date2021-07-23
Runtime1h 22min
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
AwardsAwards1 nomination
CompanyAmerican Masters Pictures, Artemis Rising Foundation, Black Public Media
Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey
Selfas Self
Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones
Selfas Self
Judith Jamison
Judith Jamison
Selfas Self
George Faison
George Faison
Selfas Self

Ailey (film)

Ailey is an 2021 American documentary film, directed by Jamila Wingot, which follows the life of dancer Alvin Ailey.

It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 30, 2021. It was released on July 23, 2021, by Neon.


The film follows the life of dancer Alvin Ailey.


In 2017, Jamila Wignot was approached by Insignia Films to direct a documentary about Alvin Ailey after discovering American Masters had not produced a documentary film revolving around his life, and that no film biographies about Ailey existed. Production on the film began in Summer 2018, and concluded in October 2019. Wingot also incorporated audio recordings made by Ailey, for an autobiography he was collaborating on with A. Peter Bailey, feeling it was important to have the story told from his voice.

Wignot wanted to include apart from Ailey's life and career, a contemporary element to the film by filming rehearsals of Lazarus by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company to show Ailey's impact and leverage for the next generation of artists.


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 30, 2021. Shortly after, Neon acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. It was released on July 23, 2021. It will be broadcast on American Masters on PBS on January 11, 2022.

Critical reception

Ailey received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 88% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 56 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.60/10. The critics consensus reads "Ailey pays invigorating tribute to its subject's brilliant legacy -- and offers a tantalizing introduction to the rest of a fascinating story." On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 78 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Jonita Davis of The Black Cape said the film "works to chronicle the rise off a legend while also documenting the hardships of performing in the US from the 1950s onward." Gia Kourlas of The New York Times gave the film a positive review writing: "Wignot layers images, video and - most important - voice-overs from Ailey to create a portrait that feels as poetic and nuanced as choreography itself."