He may be viewed as an icon of the 20th century now but back in the 1960s Muhammad Ali was seen as anything but. In fact he was a man whose religious beliefs and convictions, whose stance on the Vietnam War, whose very refusal to be a “quiet” negro created huge schisms in American culture, not just within the boxing community but across the country.
Director Bill Siegel looks back at this time, starting with the young Cassius Clay and his rise from Olympic Gold Medalist to professional boxer to world champion to a man who would raise issues about Vietnam, racism and religion to a very public level.
With great old footage in and out of the ring, interviews and snippets from family, friends, business associates and religious leaders we follow Ali’s journey as he discovers his new identity with the Black Muslim movement, the controversies caused, his famous stand against the war and subsequent legal battles and his gradual rise as a public figure of some standing.
It tends to be forgotten now with all the whitewashing of history (and yes, I did use that word intentionally) but at the time Ali was seen as a serious threat to the USA and their plans. I mean if the Heavyweight Champion of the world was prepared to speak out against the war, if he was prepared to give up his title for his beliefs, prepared to face jail for those beliefs, then maybe there was something to it. Coming at a time when black power was on the rise, when youth both black and white were starting to find their own voices, he was the perfect storm at the perfect time.
This is a movie not just for sporting fans but for people who care about history, who want to see a little of the man behind the marketable image, who perhaps don’t realise just what a gamble he was taking, what a stand he was making. This is a worthy addition to any boxing fan or history fan’s collection.
Director: Bill Siegel / USA / 2013 / Madman / 88 Mins / 16:9 / Region 4