When one of his family members asks why he is recording a conversation they’re having, Muhammad Ali says that they don’t realise it now, but these tapes could be history someday. The latest Muhammad Ali documentary, I Am Ali, has access to these personal records. Ali wanted to record almost everything in his life, especially conversations with family.
At the start of the film there is a phone call he made to his daughter in 1979 to tell him he was thinking of trying to win the World Heavyweight Title back at the age of 37. Her reaction is not encouraging.
The film is directed by Clare Lewins and she got good access to information about Ali and the people around him. She meets his former manager in Las Vegas and his brother takes her around Louisville, Kentucky where he and Muhammad grew up. He tells the story of how he helped his brother learn to dodge… by throwing rocks at him. She talks to his son, daughters, ex-wife and delves into their family life and how Ali’s personality affected their relationships with him.
When he won the title for the first time speaking to the press afterwards he told them they made it harder for his opponent, Sonny Liston, “All you reporters made it harder on Liston. Never write about me like that… just make me angry. Never make me no underdog and never talk about who’s going stop me. Ain’t nobody going to stop me!” He then walked out without taking questions.
There’s not a whole lot new in it for people who know all about him. But sometimes with great figures like Ali people assume everyone already knows everything about them. It’s easy to forget there’s a younger generation with only a vague notion of him being a great fighter, talker, civil rights activist. This documentary does a good modern telling of Ali’s story for this generation and will surely extend and reinforce his legacy.