When We Were Kings Documentary

Subject: Civil Rights / Sports
Themes: Civil Rights 20th Century
Age groups: High School Homeschooling
Resource type: Video

This 1996 film, which won the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary, deals not only with Muhammad Ali the boxer, but discussions with Spike Lee, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton place Ali in cultural and political context. The music -- James Brown, B.B. King, Celia Cruz and Miriam Makeba all performed leading up to the fight -- surrounding the event is also worth studying, as is the imaginative relationship between the Americans in the film and Africa.

The director of the film, Leon Gast, worked on it for 23 years.

Reviewing "When We Were Kings" in the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthman wrote, "At the height of his stardom, Muhammad Ali was possibly the most famous man on earth... On a deeper level -- and this is where "When We Were Kings" exceeds its expectations and becomes a great film -- Gast examines African American pride. He records a time when Ali, loud and 'pretty,' became a worldwide symbol of black self-determination and gave his brothers a bolder, stronger image of themselves than they´d ever known."

Watch the trailer below.