From Kartemquin Films, the company behind a few documentaries we’ve covered here on S&A, like acclaimed films The Interrupters and the Bill T Jones profile A Good Man, comes what is expected to be yet another enthralling feature documentary work in The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which is currently a work-in-progress, aimed for a 2013 release.
According to the company, the documentary covers…
… Ali’s toughest bout, his battle to overturn the five-year prison sentence he received for refusing US military service during the Vietnam War.
And further, Kartemquin emphasizes that The Trials of Muhammad Ali is not a boxing film, but it is a fight film.
It traces a formative period in Ali’s life, one that is remarkably unknown to many young people today and tragically neglected by those who remember him as a boxer, but overlook how controversial he was when he first took center stage. Trials takes audiences beyond the ring to delve into the most dramatic years of Ali’s life. Prior to becoming the most recognizable face on earth, Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali and finds himself in the crosshairs of conflicts concerning Civil Rights, religion, and wartime dissent […] After Ali is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, he makes his defining expression of resistance, saying, “No, I will not go 10,000 miles to continue the domination of white slave masters over the darker people of the earth.” When the US government denies Ali’s conscientious objector claim, Ali steadfastly refuses induction into the armed forces. He is convicted of draft evasion, fined $10,000, sentenced to five years in prison and has his passport revoked. Boxing authorities strip him of his heavyweight title and ban him from the ring. Trials follows Ali through the years 1967-70, when he lived in exile within the US, weaving scenes of Ali being condemned by the US government, vilified by much of white America, and abandoned by the sporting establishment that banked on him, with scenes of support from many corners of the world, including massive protests in Cairo, fasting in Pakistan, and pickets at the US embassy in Guyana. As Ali lives in exile within the US, sacrificing fame and fortune on principle, Trials features riveting archival footage of him touring US campuses, speaking out against the war abroad and racism at home, showing Ali on fire: controversial, humorous, righteous and at his charismatic peak.
The film is directed by Bill Siegel (The Weather Underground) and executive produced by Leon Gast (When We Were Kings) for Kartemquin Films.
This upcoming documentary is not to be confused with Stephen Frears’ upcoming Muhammad Ali film for HBO, which covers similar territory – specifically, titled Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, the film will take place in 1967, as then Heavy Weight Champion of the World Muhammad Ali refused to enlist and go fight for the USA in Vietnam; his objections to the war were very public, he was convicted and sentenced to serve time in prison, during which he appealed his case that would go all the way to the Supreme Court. This was all around the time the public began turning against the war, and thus support for Ali grew; eventually, some years later, the Supreme Court would reverse his conviction.
Starring in the film Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella, Danny Glover, Ed Begley Jr., Barry Levinson, Bob Balaban, and Kathleen Chalfant.
Danny Glover will play Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Begley, Levinson, Balaban and Chalfant will play Justice Harry Blackmun, Justice Potter Stewart, an advocate for Vietnam veterans, and Justice Marshall Harlan’s wife respectively.
Christopher Plummer is playing Harlan, while Frank Langella will be Chief Justice Warren Burger.
By the way, director Frears has said that he won’t cast an actor to play of Muhammad Ali, and will instead use achival footage of Ali in the film.
No media to look at yet for The Trials of Muhammad Ali, but Chicago folks will get to see a preview of the film at the Chicago Humanities Festival, on Saturday November 10th.
The event will take place at Harold Washington Library from 10am – 11am. Exclusive clips will be premiered by director/producer Bill Siegel and producer Rachel Pikelny, who will be in discussion with Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun-Times.