When We Were Kings (1996)

This year's Best Documentary is about rhythm.  The rhythm of the 
blues.  The meter of soul.  The cadence of verse, fist, and dance. 
Director Leon Gast journeyed to Africa in 1974, to film a festival 
of music that was to accompany the championship contest between 
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.  The fight was postponed for six 
weeks, the festival went ahead as scheduled, and Gast stuck around, 
becoming increasingly interested in both the politics and the per-
sonalities involved.  He shot some great concert footage and also 
pinned down the fighters, the promoters, and, even, Zaire's 
dictator, President Mobutu Sese Seko.  Two decades passed before 
Gast could finish his film.  To the hundreds of hours of footage, 
he added interviews, including writers George Plimpton and Norman 
Mailer, both of whom were originally ringside.  (And both of whom 
get a little too much screen time.)  The result is an immensely 
entertaining time capsule that rocks with an electrifying rhythm.
And it's funny!  From Ali's rhyming rants to Mailer's description 
of Don King's hair, there's a hearty sense of humor here.  In fact, 
all that's missing is a modern-day encounter with the champs.  What 
we saw at the Academy Awards should've also happened in this movie.  
(Rated "PG"/90 min.)
Grade: A-
Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Legeros.  
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: March 30, 1997

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