movie film review | chris tookey

When We Were Kings

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  When We Were Kings Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
7.50 /10
Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, James Brown
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Directed by: Leon Gast
Written by:

Released: 1997
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 85

A reverential account of Muhammed Aliís 1974 fight with George Foreman in Zaire.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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When We Were Kings is competently executed as hagiography, but it should have been more hard-hitting. That it won the Oscar for Best Documentary is mainly a sentimental tribute to Ali, who by the Nineties was ravaged by Parkinsonís disease. Here he comes across, in happier times, as handsome, articulate, funny and courageous, with an appealing line in self-mockery.

Twenty-three years in the making, Leo Gastís film is worth seeing as a reminder of one of the centuryís great sporting achievements, with evocative descriptions from journalists Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, who attended the fight.

However, Foreman is treated much less fairly than Ali - itís as though the film-makers have decided he canít be considered truly black. Thereís no attempt, either, to query Aliís merits as a role-model: his loudmouth statements, his espousal of Islam, his machismo, his responsibility for the rise of that exploitative boxing promoter Don King.

Ali is let off the hook over the fact that his greatest fight was financed by Zaireís brutal dictator, President Mobutu. And thereís some mumbo-jumbo about Foreman being cursed by a femaleďsuccubusĒ (at which point there flash up pictures of the singer Miriam Makeba) which I found baffling and pretentious. And thereís no attempt at all to question the ethics of boxing.

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