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Trials of Muhammad Ali, The (DVD Review)

26 Apr, 2014 By: Angelique Flores

Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.06 million
$29.95 DVD
Not rated.

Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest heavyweight boxers that ever stepped into the ring. You can’t talk about the boxing champ without addressing his bombastic speeches, his efforts as a civil rights activist and his involvement as an outspoken member of the Nation of Islam.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali is not your average sports documentary in that it doesn’t focus on Ali’s boxing career. Rather, it pulls together the sports legend’s career with his complex life, politics and spirituality, all of which were intertwined.

As a vocal, militant black Muslim, Ali sometimes brought his politics into the ring with his opponents, such as in the match with Floyd Patterson, who refused to stop calling him by his birth name, Cassius Clay.

He drew the ire of the U.S. government and some Americans who called him unpatriotic when he refused to be drafted in the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector. This led to his conviction and denial of a boxing license.

Ali then took to speaking around the country, mostly at colleges, until his conviction was overturned and he was able to box again.

Still, many saw him as a hero throughout all of this because of his courage and tenacity to stand firm in his convictions, his spiritual devotion and support of civil rights.

Interestingly, this so-called unpatriotic figure was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Though there are no new interviews with Ali here, there is plenty of footage, photos and revealing interviews with such figures as Ali’s brother; his first wife, Khalikah Camacho-Ali; Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam (who is being interviewed about Ali for the first time); and Gordon B. Davidson, the one remaining member of the 11-member Louisville Sponsoring Group, which managed Ali for six years.

The DVD comes with a documentary short, two audio commentaries and a number of featurettes. Most interesting are “Cassius Clay Meets The Beatles,” “Muhammad Ali Suspended From the Nation of Islam” and “John Carlos on Raising the Fist,” the latter of which is about the 1968 Olympian whose Black Power salute on the podium caused controversy.

The disc also includes educational resources such as the official ITVS Community Cinema Discussion Guide as well as the complete audio recording and transcripts of the Clay v. USA Supreme Court case from 1971, which overturned his 1967 conviction.

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