When We Were Kings (1996)
by Leon Gast
Believe the hype. This much-praised documentary about one of the most famous boxing matches in history deserves every one of its accolades. Blending sports drama and biography with a touch of political analysis, When We Were Kings relates the who, when, where, and most importantly the why of the 1974 George Foreman/Muhammad Ali world championship fight in Zaire.
Splicing together old news footage, photos, and contemporary interview clips, director Leon Gast captures the excitement and chaos that led up to the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” and the incredible characters and events surrounding the thrilling bout.
The documentary explores a gamut of issues that defined the 1970s and impacted the African-American community: the Vietnam War and the draft, the nascent “Black is Beautiful” movement and idealization of Mother Africa, and the brutal reality of post-colonial dictatorships. But it is the charismatic and bombastic Muhammad Ali at the center of it all who steals the show with the sheer force of his inimitable personality. When We Were Kings reminds us why… (Barnes & Noble)