In 1992, the State of Florida — after bowing to pressure from humanitarian groups and the MPAA — installed televisions and VCRs in the cells on death row. Sometime after that, Graves had a conversion experience as he studied the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammed while watching the John Wayne western Rio Bravo on TV. He then changed his name to Ali Youssef Chahine and began writing film reviews for the prison-published house organ, The Beaten Heart. His column, "Pulling Your Coat," became popular with both inmates and guards, who often turned to Chahine for movie recommendations. But Chahine didn't leap into national prominence until his pen-pal girlfriend, Sally Alice Labourdeaux, of Seabrook, New Hampshire, began republishing his reviews on her "Free Ali" website, aliyoussefchahineisaninnocentmanandilovehim.com.



Now this Dead Man Criticizing, who has completely erased the memory of Pauline Kael from the prison population of North Central Florida, has become an unlikely pop culture phenomenon and cause celebre among anti-death penalty crusaders and film fans alike. His online reviews are read worldwide, and studios and distributors are so interested in his pull-no-punches assessments that they've worked with prison officials to set up pre-release screenings in the hopes that Chahine will give them a thumbs up they can put on their posters--a thumbs up Variety estimates can mean millions at the box office. All that's about to end, however, as the man described by the Columbia Journalism Review as the only honest film critic in America is slated for execution this week.



 
 

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