Like the rest of the world, we at Kartemquin were deeply saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali. We wanted to take a moment to reflect on a man who meant so much to so many different people.
It is easy to try to whittle down a career and life when it comes to these tributes. It would be easy to sum up a man as simply “the greatest,” one of the most significant and celebrated boxers and sporting figures in history. He will always be remembered in photos towering over Sonny Liston, as the gold medal winner, as the three-time heavyweight champion. His legacy and power will remain at the forefront of the conversation.
But there was also another equally important part of the legend, and that was his activism and dedication to the nation of Islam. Ali had power in so many ways – with his fists but also with his words and his actions. Our film The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013) covers arguably the more important part of this legend. When Ali converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, these actions left him banned from boxing and facing a five-year prison sentence. He found his voice in speaking tours across college campuses, debating on the issues of race, faith and identity that still confront America today. Though he had to take these campus tours to help support himself and his young family, Ali stayed true to himself, his principles, and his beliefs. The trailer for the film and the opening pre-credits roll below show the hatred he was confronted with, and the great sacrifices he had to make in these exile years, many years before his reputation would be "redeemed" and whitewashed.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali Director Bill Seigel, who dedicated two decades of his life to researching and producing this era of Ali's life, stated in a recent op-ed written for The Guardian, “When you’re Muhammad Ali, on the threshold of history looking forward, not knowing how it is going to turn out and being nonetheless ready to go to jail and sacrifice your career, the idea of being who you want to be defines courage…There will never be another Muhammad Ali within the boxing ring. But beyond the boxing ring, he represents the capacity we all have to live truly moral, principled and humane lives.”
We remember the activist, the humanitarian, the boxer, the believer, the fighter, and the man, who ducked and dived but never wavered from his path. It was an honor and an inspiration to be able to tell his story.
Visit this page to find links to various streaming platforms where you can view The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and purchase the film on DVD.
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Guidestar
© 2017 Kartemquin Educational Films
Sign up for the Kartemquin newsletter
Get film updates and special deals