The Trove of Muhammad Ali Footage That Almost Went Unseen

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Oct 25, 2019


It was a very long road to theaters for the Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings, a rousing record of a legendary boxing match, and a testament to the infectious energy, sly humor, and strong social conscience of Muhammad Ali. In 1974, filmmaker Leon Gast had been in Kinshasa, Zaire, rolling his camera in the days leading up to the Rumble in the Jungle, the title fight that pitted Ali against a seemingly unstoppable George Foreman. But it wasn’t until many years later that Gast—who had long been looking for financial backing to finish a movie about Zaïre 74, the Rumble-related music festival that he had originally traveled to Africa to shoot—focused his attention on the fight material. In the above video, taken from a supplement on our new edition of When We Were Kings, producer David Sonenberg discusses putting up the money around the turn of the nineties for the transferring of Gast’s film from Zaire, and how his fascination with the Ali footage helped lead the director to change his focus. To learn about the supporting role that the hip-hop group the Fugees played in this story, watch to the end of the clip.