I Am Ali (PG)

Directed by Clare Lewins
Picturehouse, Liverpool
28th November - 4th December 2014

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Like a lot of people I have always had a fascination with the ultra-charismatic Muhammed Ali, although he was called Cassius Clay when I used to get up, when I was just a little kid, at 3am or 4am, to watch him involved in title fights, transmitted from the USA to UK homes via the Telstar satellite

The most famous of these bouts was when he first clinched the World Heavyweight title after defeating 'the big bad bear' Sonny Liston, who was part of the Mafia Mob.

This latest in a long line of documentary and feature films made about Ali stands out from the rest because, although it is flattering about him - some might call it hagiographic - it nevertheless reveals sides of him never before revealed, particularly his affinity with his large family, especially his devotion to his ma and pa.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of I Am Ali is the access director Clare Lewins has to the large supply of recordings of his family telephone calls. No lucid reasons are given in the film as to why Ali decided to tape these numerous calls/conversations, but one of his daughters, among nine children he has , suggested he wanted them to have keepsakes of their childhoods.

The conversations reveal a more serious side to the man than the one portrayed when he was in front of the TV cameras, the press or in pre-fight skirmishes with forthcoming opponents.

In keeping with the hagiographic nature of the documentary when Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee spoke about his boxer's fight with British Champion Henry Cooper in 1965 no mention was made of the skulduggery he got up to after 'Our Enery' had despatched Ali to the floor.

In order to give him more breathing space to recover from this potential knockout blow he ripped, unseen to all, one of his gloves. The extra couple of minutes it took to put on another enabled Ali to get his wits together and eventually win the contest - Cooper having to retire with a heavily gashed eye.

Nevertheless I Am Ali was a joy to watch.

Sadly Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome in 1984, a condition more than likely brought on by the heavy blows he took to the head - inexplicably he continued fighting until he was 39 - , notably in epic scraps with George Foreman and Joe Frazier.

Aged 72, he appeared again in front of a global audience in 2012, when he was a titular bearer of the Olympic flag during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London.

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