Analysis of When We Were Kings

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Analysis of When We Were Kings When We Were Kings, a documentary about the Muhammad Ali/George Forman heavyweight "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match, is a wonderfully nostalgic, and occasionally insightful, window into the recent past. By nature, however, it is not a motion picture of any particular depth, nor is it intended to be. Although the film touches on issues of racism and nationalism as necessary background elements, it does not delve far beneath the surface. Those who would criticize the film view this as a fault; I see it as a creative choice. When We Were Kings does not take a political or philosophical stance, and, as a result, successfully does what it sets out to do. While When We Were Kings is not a biography of Ali, it offers a great deal of insight into why the boxer was equally beloved and despised during his heyday. It's easy to forget how controversial a figure Ali was in the '60s and '70s, when he constantly proclaimed himself "the greatest", refused to register for the draft, and said things like "Damn America. I live in America, but Africa's my home." Age and Parkinson's Disease have softened the man's image, and, as Spike Lee comments, it's shocking to realize how few young people understand who Muhammed Ali was. Today, George Forman is one of America's best liked public figures, but that's the result of a lengthy personality makeover. In 1974, when the "Rumble in the Jungle" took place, Forman was a taciturn, frightening individual. To gain his heavyweight championship position, he had "destroyed" both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in the rin... ... middle of paper ... ...ept the project shelved until 1989, when Gast, along with director Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Dolores Claiborne), began working to pare down hundreds of hours of film to a reasonable length. The result is a dynamic look at one of the great moments in sports history, and an examination of how and why the participants were so important. Through Gast's camera, we see the charisma of Ali and the menace of Forman, feel the energy of the crowd, and understand what an amazing fight the "Rumble in the Jungle" actually was. To use the old cliche, you don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy this motion picture. All you need is an appreciation of recent history and a desire to learn more about an event that had far more importance in the world's eyes than any other heavyweight bout in the history of boxing.
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