When We Were Kings
Dir. Leon Gast. 1996, 88 mins. 35mm print courtesy of Academy Film Archive. Leon Gast’s classic, Oscar-winning documentary of the “Rumble in the Jungle”—Muhammad Ali’s triumphant Kinshasa fight against heavyweight champion George Foreman—took more than two decades to finish. By the time of completion, it had become a reflection on the responsibilities and demands of fame, a snapshot of a moment when black Americans were starting, partly thanks to Ali’s example, to embrace their African heritage en masse, and a hymn to Ali’s mesmerizing, canny presence outside the ring. Featuring commentary by Spike Lee and Norman Mailer and appearances by Don King, B.B. King, The Seekers, and James Brown. Leon Gast is this year’s Legacy Award Recipient at the 11th Annual Cinema Eye Honors.