“When We Were Kings” (1996) / Z-View

When We Were Kings (1996)

Director:  Leon Gast

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, The Spinners and Howard Cosell..

Tagline:  The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When We Were Kings is the Academy Award-winning documentary of the championship fight between the undefeated (40-0) Heavyweight Champion of the World, George Foreman and his challenger, Muhammad Ali, who was a 4-1 underdog.  Promoter, Don King had contracts that paid each fighter $5 million and the backing of Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire, who saw the fight as an opportunity to shine a positive light on his country.  To that end, the fight became a culminating event of a festival that included performances by The Spinners, B.B. King and James Brown.

Leon Gast, using archival footage and interviews does an excellent job in presenting the backstories of Ali and Foreman as well as the fight’s historical significance.  Ali had refused to enter the draft, became a Muslim and had changed his name from Cassius Clay.  While many Americans had developed a dislike for Ali, he was dearly loved by the population of Zaire.  George Foreman, was an Olympic Gold Medalist who proudly represented the USA, was the undefeated Champion of the World and the man who many thought would destroy Ali. The stage was set for what many thought would be the fight to end Muhammad Ali’s career… and yet, Ali once again shocks the world!

When We Were Kings is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  It pulls you in, sets the historical context of the events, provides backstories on the key players while at the same time being entertaining.  When We Were Kings rates 5 of 5 stars.