Mohamed Ali is one of the most charismatic pioneers in history whose every move has been documented in and out of the ring. Yet, there is still so much to know about the larger-than-life boxer.
Mohamed Ali is a four-part docuserie by renowned filmmaker Ken burns , who spent six years developing the feature film that highlights key moments in Ali’s life. They include his rise to the heavyweight title, his name change, his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, rivalry with Joe frazier and conquer Georges foreman at Rumble in the jungle.
Burns co-directed the docuseries with his daughter, Sarah burns, and David mcmahon. It will feature archival footage and interviews with academics, sports figures and luminaries, such as the Reverend. Jesse jackson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Ali’s daughters and his ex-wives.
Rasheda Ali Walsh is used to documentaries about her father, whose bravado captured the world. His mind still attracts attention more than five years after Ali died in 2016 at the age of 74, after 32 battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Ali Walsh was drawn to this project after Sarah Burns reached out and detailed that it would be a full project on the man she calls “daddy.”
“Not as a boxer, but as a Muslim, father, brother, husband, poet, patriot and ambassador for peace. And my radar went off, ”says Ali Walsh leGrio.
The famous boxer was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky during the Jim Crow era. At the age of 12, Ali already knew he would be the greatest of all time and change the world.
“He wanted respect. At a young age he was really trying to keep this not just for himself, but for his people. So I really think the movie encompasses how my dad felt – who he was as a young boy, becoming a young man and then ultimately evolving into this huge figure because of all of his beliefs, all of his principles. His fundamentals follow him throughout his life, ”she says.
Ali Walsh believes his father’s imperfections are the root of why so many people stay drawn to him. He has not disinfected in life and this project does not do so in the service of his legacy either.
“He had flaws, but he was always sincere,” she says.
Ali still resonates and is relevant at this point in history, as issues of social justice come to the fore. Ali refused to be drafted in 1966 for the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs, to announce, “My conscience will not let me go and shoot my brother, or darker people, or poor hungry people in the mud for the great and mighty America.”
His position cost him his heavyweight championship, his livelihood and a conviction for violating the Universal Military Training and Service Act. Ali has been heavily criticized, but is now revered as a role model for athletes using their platforms for advocacy.
“Dad would be so happy if people were inspired by his actions, by his bravery, not succumb to his fears, because my father had many trials and tribulations. He had a lot of people against him and he had received death threats. We had opposition, including people from his own camp, ”recalls Ali Walsh.
“So he wanted his story told so that the younger generation, who didn’t grow up watching him go through this, could walk through it and learn from it. That’s why my dad’s name appears in movements like Black Lives Matter because he moved.
Ali proudly stood at the intersection of race, fame and culture.
“He stirred the pot one way. He opened the dialogue. It was crazy at the time, ”continues Ali Walsh.
He may have been bombastic in public, but at home he was a “soft” who let his children get the better of him. He was also a supporting grandfather, especially the supporting grandson Nico ali walsh at the beginning of his career.
The 21-year-old made his professional boxing debut in August and won with a TKO.
“As Nico began to take more interest in sport, my father gave him so many beautiful words of wisdom,” recalls Ali Walsh.
In her own way, she also carries her father’s banner and keeps the wish she made to him on her deathbed.
“I made a promise to her that I would do my best to try to lead her life and do it the best, the best that I can. I think this project sort of does that, ”says Ali Walsh.
Mohamed Ali airs on PBS September 19-22 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET.
Watch the trailer below.
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