When We Were Kings (1996)

When We Were Kings Documentary Film

When We Were Kings is a documentary film about the former World Boxing Heavyweight Champion, Muhammad Ali. Released in 1996, this documentary film was directed by Leon Gast and comprises of extensive video archives from Muhammad Ali’s historic match against George Foreman.

The documentary has often been cited as one of the best documentaries ever to be made about boxing, we get an insight into Ali’s past life, when he was still Cassius Clay. Cassius Clay rapidly gained popularity during the sixties, and by the end of the decade he had turned from an amateur boxer into a world class athlete.

The film gives a detailed analysis of Muhammad Ali’s fame and popularity; which escalated and won him world wide support after he refused to join the American army in the Vietnam War. He was even well known in lands as far as Africa, which is where the Heavyweight Championship match was destined to be held, in Zaire.

This documentary film isn’t much of a life history of Ali (though it centers on him), rather it gives an incredibly unbiased view of the events that led to the historic match between him and George Foreman. We see interviews of Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Thomas Hauser, and Malick Bowens, who all give their views about the stay in Zaire and the impeding hype that was created before the match. We also see some memorable videos of Muhammad Ali as he’s talking to the media; he turns out to be very charming and funny. He readily make fun of his opponent, more than once saying that he’s “gonna whoop Foreman”.

The latter part of the documentary film then focuses on the match itself, with Muhammad Ali’s famous “rope-a-dope” causing the opponent to waste much energy in punching air while Ali capitalized and knock George Foreman out in the eighth round. Muhammad Ali took some fair amount of beating in the early rounds but eventually started to regain the match in the fourth round, thus becoming the World Heavyweight Champion in the eighth.

When We Were Kings is an excellent documentary film, and the amount of effort that went into its production is highly commendable.

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