Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Written by Hombre Divertido
Due out August 12th from PBS Paramount, this sixty-minute documentary chronicles the champion’s formative years in the magic city. The title of the new release stems from legendary fight physician Ferdie Pacheco, who once said, "Cassius Clay was born in Louisville, but Muhammad Ali was made in Miami."
Anything that features the charismatic Ali is certainly going to be entertaining, and this well-made documentary is no exception. Picking up from the eighteen-year-old Ali’s gold medal win in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the documentary follows Ali to the famed Fifth Street gym in Miami where he would develop into the greatest of all time under the tutelage of Angelo Dundee.
The documentary contains wonderful footage, and insightful commentary from key players in the Ali camp as well as news sources and historians who weave the story instead of the standard narrator. The lack of a customary narrator was a bold choice, and resulted in an extremely effective and engaging final product. The film is well paced, and produced.
The challenge here is that this is not the first telling of this story, and contains little new information. It excels in detailing the relationships and eventual triangle of Ali, Malcom X, and Elijah Muhammad, and contains a pleasant account of Ali’s meeting with the Beatles, but focuses too much on the first Liston fight, which has been told at length in numerous other projects. Though the goal as listed on the product was to explore the critical role that Miami played in the evolution of Ali, it tends to drift too far from that goal, and Miami is more of a footnote.
As this story focuses on Ali’s time in Miami, it certainly leaves the audience wanting more. The story is well told, but is incomplete in that it leaves off at a critical time in the champ’s life.
Not much here to speak of in the way of bonus material. A preview of the documentary, and a filmed conversation with the two producers are good, but the preview serves little purpose packaged with the actual film, and the conversation, though mildly informative, is filmed like something on public access and is tough to watch though the appearance of what appears to be a moth in the studio is humorous.
Recommendation: This is a well made and enjoyable sixty-minutes and if you don’t own any DVD’s on the life of the icon that is Muhammad Ali, you could certainly do worse, but you will want to buy other films to complete the story.