In today’s lesson where students had to decide who is the biggest hero, Mother Teresa or Muhammad Ali, the latter was a clear winner. Below are some documentaries and films which will provide you with a heaps of information and inspiration from the great man himself.
When We Were Kings (1996): I watched this for the first time at University as part of a film festival and the documentary transfixes you with the heat and passion of boxing. It covers the infamous 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The focus is, naturally enough, the aging Ali, who was thought at the time to have little chance of beating Foreman yet his ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy –pretending to be in more trouble than you actually are, and cunningly wearing your opponent down in the process – proves devastating.
Ali (2001): Will Smith who is most famous for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Men in Black stars in this biopic that chronicles ten years in the life of Cassius Clay, from 1964, when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, to 1974 and the Rumble In The Jungle with George Foreman. In between, there are the wider issues of Ali’s controversial opposition to the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, his conversion to Islam, his banishment from boxing and his initial return against Joe Frazier.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013): This is an American PBS documentary which focuses on Ali’s life outside the ring. A lot of times is given of course to his refusal of the Vietnam draft and the legal and professional problems it caused him (he faced prison, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence suspended for four years).
I am Ali (2013): This documentary is just about Ali as a man. There isn’t the focus on Ali as a boxer like other films or documentaries. It shows him as a warm-hearted family man through lots of audio recordings Ali himself in the ‘70s.
Other short clips about Ali are worth watching to learn more about this hero:
My parents were strict on how much TV we could watch. This was pre-Internet days, so the biggest thing to pull us away from doing the homework, household chores, doing sport or practising the flute was TV. Only being allowed to watch 30 minutes TV a day felt like torture so when I chose to do Media Studies GCSE the joy of being able to say “I’ve got to watch A, B and C for homework” was a welcome passport to TV heaven.
So what is out there in the realms of television that might help you relax from over zealous revision and increase your knowledge of crime and punishment at the same time?
Up there as a number one priority for people trying to learn about crime and punishment has got to be Netflix’s Making a Murderer. Filmed over 10 years, the real-life thriller follows a DNA exoneree who, while exposing police corruption, becomes a suspect in a grisly new crime. It will have you gripped from start to finish.
The Independent lists an excellent collection of documentaries that those people suffering from the demise of Making a Murderer can turn to when wanted to continue following real life storylines about crime.
Focusing on the death penalty you might watch Redemption with Jamie Foxx playing Stanley Tookie Williams or Let Him Have It with a young Chris Eccleston playing Derek Bentley.
Or perhaps you’d prefer some fictional characters. Broadchurch has recently finished on Series 3 with its police investigations, causes of crime and court scenes. Whereas Line of Duty can offer police corruption with some intermittent court cases too.
Stephen Daldry, a famous director, has announced he’s working on a film about Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini.
Mardini who was already a promising swimmer before she left the civil war in Syria travelled with her sister to Lebanon, then on to the Turkish port of Izmir, before getting onto an overcrowded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos. But less than half an hour into their journey the motor stopped and the boat threatened to capsize: out of the 20 people aboard, only three knew how to swim: Yusra being one of them. For more than three hours, they did what had to be done, swimming alongside the dinghy, pushing, pulling and cajoling it until they reached land.
“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” Yusra recalls
She eventually settled in Germany, joined a swim team in Berlin and within months she was in Brazil, one of the 43 stateless athletes competing in Rio as the first ever refugee team. The film of her life is going to be both interesting in how it shows the escape from a war torn country as well as the determination of a young athlete aiming for swimming glory.
In class this week when discussing with Year 8 students what their human rights are we’ve mentioned Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
The reason is homosexuality. In Russia since 2013 it has been illegal to talk or give information to minors (children) about homosexuality. In the new Beauty and the Beast live action film LeFou and his handsome friend begin a loving gay relationship. This is too much for the Russian culture minister who has slapped this heavy rating on the film.
It is a fabulous film, though rather long, but will help you understand the great Hindu peace activist Mahatma Gandhi – Gandhi. In fact when my sister was in Year 11 she watched the film to prepare for her GCSE History which had a unit on the Partition of India. I watched it too (in Year 9 at the time) which then helped me understand when my sister and I argued in the future, why rather than have a sisterly catfight, she used to sit there and simply say “passive resistance’ to my hair pulling and light punches!
If you’d rather watch films to help you learn about Martin Luther King Jnr…
Selmais the 2014 drama by famed director Ava DuVernay which brought perspective to the 1965 marches to Selma in regards to the voting rights movement. The film won critical acclaim for actor David Oyelowo as MLK and the song “Glory” from the soundtrack won a Golden Globe.
Boycott is a television film starring Jeffrey Wright as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film is based on the book Daybreak of Freedom by Stewart Burns and tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306is a documentary short film. It was released in 2008 to commemorate the 40th annual remembrance of MLK. It highlights the events of that fateful day when Martin was shot outside of Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.
Selma Lord Selmais a 1999 film based on the events of March 1965 known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The story is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Sheyann Webb.
Our Friend, Martin is an animated film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Two best friends travel through time and meet MLK at different points during his life. It features an all-star voice cast including John Travolta and was nominated for an Emmy award.
A TV documentary about MLK is only 45 minutes long and shows you how he rose to prominence and then his assassination which shocked the world.
What a great tagline for a film: Genius has no race. Strength has no gender. Courage has no limit.
Hidden Figures is out in British cinemas in late February 2017 and tells the story of the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. These women defied sexism, racism and segregation to become central to NASA’s bid to put an American into space; their calculations helping to send Alan Shepard and John Glenn into orbit and back to Earth again.
For the author of the book which the film was based on, Margot Lee Shetterly, her greatest pleasure has been the positive response from the only still living woman of the trio, Katherine Johnson aged 98. Interviewed in the Independent Ms Shetterley says: ‘At every turn…these women were involved in World War Two, the Cold War, Civil Rights…so that’s the thing, I really wanted to be able to tell a multi-layered story through the same women.’