Leon Gast

When We Were Kings

When We Were Kings

In 1974, Leon Gast traveled to Africa to film Zaïre 74, a music festival planned to accompany an unprecedented sports spectacle: the Rumble in the Jungle, in which late-career underdog Muhammad Ali would contend with the younger powerhouse George Foreman for the boxing heavyweight championship title—“a fight between two blacks in a black nation, organized by blacks,” as a Kinshasa billboard put it. When the main event was delayed, extending Ali’s stay in Africa, Gast wound up amassing a treasure trove of footage, observing the wildly charismatic athlete training for one of the toughest bouts of his career while basking in his role as black America’s proud ambassador to postcolonial Africa. Two decades in the making, When We Were Kings features interviews with Norman Mailer and George Plimpton that illustrate the sensational impact of the fight, rounding out an Academy Award–winning portrait of Ali that captures his charm, grace, and defiance.

Film Info

  • Leon Gast
  • United States
  • 1996
  • 87 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.78:1
  • English
  • Spine #998

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with 5.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Soul Power, a 2008 documentary about the Zaïre 74 music festival directed by Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte
  • New interview with producer David Sonenberg
  • Interview from 1997 with director Leon Gast
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Kelefa Sanneh

New cover featuring a photograph by Howard L. Bingham, designed by F. Ron Miller

Purchase Options

Released Oct 22, 2019

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with 5.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Soul Power, a 2008 documentary about the Zaïre 74 music festival directed by Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte
  • New interview with producer David Sonenberg
  • Interview from 1997 with director Leon Gast
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Kelefa Sanneh

New cover featuring a photograph by Howard L. Bingham, designed by F. Ron Miller

When We Were Kings
Cast
Muhammad Ali
George Foreman
Don King
James Brown
B.B. King
Mobutu Sese Seko, president of Zaire
Spike Lee
Norman Mailer
George Plimpton
Thomas Hauser
Malick Bowens
Lloyd Price
The Spinners
The Crusaders
Miriam Makeba
Credits
Director
Leon Gast
Produced by
Leon Gast
Produced by
Taylor Hackford
Produced by
David Sonenberg
Coproducer
Vikram Jayanti
Coproducer
Keith Robinson
Cinematography by
Maryse Alberti
Cinematography by
Paul Goldsmith
Cinematography by
Kevin Keating
Cinematography by
Albert Maysles
Cinematography by
Roderick Young
Editor
Leon Gast
Editor
Taylor Hackford
Editor
Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte
Editor
Keith Robinson

From The Current

The Trove of Muhammad Ali Footage That Almost Went Unseen
The Trove of Muhammad Ali Footage That Almost Went Unseen

Producer David Sonenberg charts the long road When We Were Kings, which ultimately won an Oscar for best documentary, had to travel to make it to the big screen.

When We Were Kings: Ready to Fight
When We Were Kings: Ready to Fight

Drawn from a treasure trove of footage, this Oscar-winning documentary explores a watershed moment for one of the world’s greatest athletes—an international spectacle that revealed the complexities of black identity.

By ​Kelefa Sanneh