The Trials of Muhammad Ali – Bill Siegel (2013)


“Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was not the only American to refuse to serve during the Vietnam War, but he was, by some measures, the most famous, the loudest and the baddest. Tracing the road to Mr. Ali’s act of defiance in 1967, Bill Siegel’s film ‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’ tries to recover the cultural éclat of the moment after decades of pop-history shorthand have reduced it to sound bites about the Vietcong. Mr. Ali has already received his share of attention, not only in the annals of sports journalism but also through documentary (‘When We Were Kings’) and drama (‘Ali’ and ‘The Greatest’). But Mr. Siegel’s entry dwells on Mr. Ali’s embrace of Islam, and specifically the Nation of Islam, and how his stance on the war led him out of the ring and all the way to the Supreme Court. Sifting through the plentiful footage on record, ‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’ is partly a story of a man who spoke his mind and broke America’s polite and not-so-polite contracts regarding celebrity and race. The opening clip shows a grandstanding television producer calling Mr. Ali a ‘simplistic fool,’ and it’s the kind of invective that betrays an underlying anxiety: Precisely how Mr. Ali did what he did was often hard to simplify as foolhardy or even to understand, and therefore posed a threat. Mr. Siegel also doesn’t smooth over the complexities of Mr. Ali’s religious affiliation and acceptance of dogma, showcasing fresh interviews with Louis Farrakhan and followers of the Nation of Islam. They include one representative describing Christianity as ‘widely interpreted’ to be a ‘slave-making’ religion. Mr. Siegel lets these and other sentiments illustrate Mr. Ali’s context and what must have been unsettling about his actions. (Mr. Siegel co-directed ‘The Weather Underground,’ a 2003 film about the group that advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government.) … The film falls short of explaining Mr. Ali, who, like many outspoken individuals, can stubbornly repel scrutiny, nor will it pacify the many who opposed his conscientious objections. But it also underlines one enduring quality: namely, that he probably couldn’t care less what people think. …”
NY Times: One of His Biggest Fights Was Outside of the Ring
YouTube: The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013) | Official Trailer
PBS: The Trials of Muhammad Ali 1:25:31

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This entry was posted in Documentary, Draft board, Malcolm X, Movie, Pacifist, Religion, Sports, Vietnam War, Weather Underground and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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