By Megan Bianco
Thirteen years ago, Michael Mann directed a biopic about the famous boxer Muhammad Ali titled simply Ali. Starring Will Smith, the film received mixed reviews and underwhelmed at the box-office. Before the movie, there were documentaries such as The Greatest (1969), When We Were Kings (1996) and Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story (1996). To date the Kentuckian is still the most profiled and discussed boxer ever. Now, the most recent doc Ali is the subject of is I am Ali. Featuring up-to-date commentary from the man himself, his friends, family, as well as former rivals and acquaintances, Clare Lewins’ feature is a treat for old and new fans.
I am Ali begins with, and features throughout the movie, old home recordings of Ali speaking to his children and wife. We see through old and new footage, Ali, or as he was born, Cassius Clay, and his family roots in Louisville, KY, in the 1940s and 50s, to his rise as a boxer in the early 60s. We watch him finding fame in the middle of the civil rights movements, to controversially ranting and expressing himself with no filter, or a ‘big mouth,’ to converting from Christianity to Islam in his twenties. “Cassius Clay was my slave name, and now I’m Muhammad Ali,” he said. Famous fights against Joe Frazier and George Foreman are recounted, and his family gives some insight into how the legend is doing since contracting Parkinson’s disease.
I am Ali includes familiar and recent footage of people who knew the man, such as Malcolm X, Tom Jones, and co-boxers George Foreman and Mike Tyson. Those who are longtime fans of Muhammad Ali won’t find much new on the man’s backstory in Lewins’ film, but will still hear and see him, and many of the people in his life, from a new perspective. Audiences who are new to the famous fighter might enjoy and appreciate the new documentary most. I am Ali was produced as a letter to the man, and from the man to his fans.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.