By Anna

What makes Ali: Fear Eats the Soul great is that it’s just as applicable today in the United States as it was 40 years ago in Germany. Anyone with dark skin is an immigrant or illegal immigrant, who is good for nothing, taking every available job, and falling in love with the wrong women.

The film is about an Emmi, an old white woman, and Ali, a young Moroccan man, who fall in love, if for nothing else, because they are both outsiders. She is a cleaning woman whose love affair turns her coworkers against her, and he a mechanic, whose friends drink too heavily to care who he loves. Ali’s real name isn’t even Ali, but it’s what everyone tags him as anyway because of his dark skin.

“Fear eats the soul” is a phrase Arabs use, Ali tells Emmi, so she should not be afraid of her children’s reaction or the world’s reaction to their love affair. That phrase defines the film in all its poignancy, with more going on in the mind of the viewer than actually happening on screen.

Long shots, flat shots and simple action is enthralling because this couple shouldn’t make it, but I can’t stop hoping they do.

Ebert and I have different most unforgettable scenes, his being when Emmi tells her children that she married Ali, and mine being when Ali and Emmi are alone at an outside café deciding to run away. Ebert’s scene has the most action in the film—Emmi’s son kicking in her TV set in anger—, and mine the most sadness—Emmi breaking down in tears and facing the doom that they will always be outsiders.

There isn’t much about the two characters to love, Ali cheating on Emmi, Emmi not sticking up for another immigrant, but they embody a film that never shies away from the truth of the world: that skin color has always mattered and probably will always count for or against a person.

But because of films like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, maybe skin color matters just a little less today than it did 40 years ago.