The Trials of Muhammad Ali

(USA, 2013, 94 mins, DCP)
FEATURING Rahaman Ali, Gordon Davidson, Louis Farrakhan, Salim Muwakkil, Robert Lipsyte, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, John Carlos, Hana Ali, Abdul Rahman Muhammad, Abdul Bey Muhammad


Heroes don’t come more gold-plated than Muhammad Ali. But if you’re too young to remember the 1960s then you may be shocked to discover how controversial the heavyweight champion was in his heyday. Indeed, he was a constant thorn in the side of the establishment, and a hate figure for much of the mainstream media.

The evidence is in the archives: for years, reporters refused to accept Ali’s name change (he was born Cassius Clay). His refusal to play the white negro, and outspoken advocacy for Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam dismayed liberals. The last straw came when he refused to fight in Vietnam. The authorities stripped him of his heavyweight title and banned him from boxing. It was at that point Ali embarked on the greatest fight of his life, the fight outside the ring for recognition of his basic human rights.

"The best Muhammad Ali doc I’ve ever seen and - dare I say - I’ve seen ’em all.” Dave Zirin, The Nation

"A wholly illuminating look at Muhammad Ali in all his complexity, providing a surprisingly fresh and vivid portrait of a man who played rope-a-dope with history, religion and sport." Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

"Bill Siegel’s audacious documentary puts new heat and focus on what an extraordinary figure Muhammad Ali was outside the boxing ring. No film has probed this deeply into the fallout from his name change or his complex bond with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. And the saga of Ali’s refusal to be drafted during Vietnam becomes a profile in courage — a tale of shocking vilification and faith lost and found. A-" Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly