Saturday, 23 August 2008

No.39 : When We Were Kings

IMDb Link :

‘When We Were Kings’ is a 1997 documentary focusing on the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire in 1974. The fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman has attained legendary status and this documentary features footage unseen until now owing to copyright issues.

The fight itself is something of a footnote with the action not starting until an hour into the film and lasting barely ten minutes of its running time. That’s fair enough as the boxing is only one aspect of a ground breaking event that captivated the world.

The film opens with a then youthful Don King announcing a $10 million purse and that the fight is going back home to Africa. It’s quickly revealed that this isn’t due to any worthy cultural reasons but due to the president of Zaire agreeing to put up the massive bank roll.

The footage follows both fighters through their preparations including the injury suffered by Foreman which delayed the action for six weeks. Interspersed between the clips are various worthies such as Norman Mailer, who talks about the fight, and Spike Lee, who predictably talks about it’s cultural impact on the oppressed black community.

The footage of Ali especially, is cracking with his ready wit and bristling personality at its height. The talk of the time was of his bravado as Foreman was highly fancied to win, but it was good to see him prevail using tactics that Rocky Ballboa would later employ in his rematch with Clubber Lang.

Added to the jamboree was the inclusion of both James Brown and BB King, and we are treated to short bursts of both their sets. Brown is especially pleasing with his short lived moustached and topless dancers.

The film has a pretty short running time with a montage of photos over the title track used to pad things out. This isn’t a criticism as such, as I’d rather it be short and sweet than bloated and worthy.

Overall ‘When We Were Kings’ is a cracking example of the sports documentary and a rare insight into the world of true legends.

Best Bit : The fix is in - oh it isn’t!

‘W’ Score : 18/23

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