Muhammad Ali: watch and learn

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.

  • Muhammad Ali – The Whole Story (1996): This is a six hour series which covers the whole of Muhammad Ali’s life.
  • 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.

muhammad ali

Other short clips about Ali are worth watching to learn more about this hero:

  1. BBC News reporting on his death
  2. Inside Story by Al-Jazeera
  3. Muhammad Ali Obituary by the New York Times
  4. The last US President Obama gives a tribute to Ali 
  5. BBC Sports Personality of the Century

muh quote

Parliament is more Diverse

While a lot of talk after Britain’s General Election last week has been on the Conservatives special friendship with the DUP, or the Labour Party making big increases in the number of MPs they have in Parliament, there has also been some quiet appreciation of how diverse Parliament is finally becoming.

  • 45 out of the 650 MPs openly define themselves as being LGBT
  • In 2015 there were 41 MPs from ethnic minorities and now there are 52
  • In 2015 there were 191 female MPs and now there are 208 women MPs who’ll sit in the House of Commons
  • There are no specific figures on MPs with disability
  • In 2015 only 43% of MPs were educated in the comprehensive system (i.e. not private and not selective) but that has increased in 2017 to 51% (this is compared to 88% of the UK population who received comprehensive education!)
  • Notable firsts are the first female Sikh MP, a blind MP and an MP with a richly diverse international heritage

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

exodus

Questions to consider when watching the film:

  1. How did you react to the film’s visuals, especially the effects which were used to create the battles, plagues, and the ancient setting? What did these effects contribute to the story, and to your experience of the film?
  2. Did anything particularly strike you or surprise you about the film’s portrayal of its historical setting? Does the story’s basis in real history affect your reaction to the film at all? The history behind the story is a matter of some dispute amongst scholars. Some doubt whether such an exodus ever occurred. Many more recognise it as historical but there is some dispute between two different possible dates (and, as a result, which Pharaoh was involved)
  3. How did you feel about Moses and his relationships with the other characters? What did you feel were the main turning points for Moses’s own emotional journey? How has he changed by the end of the film?
  4. Why do you think Moses initially holds the view that gods exist, but don’t intervene in human history? What might be appealing about this idea, both to Moses and to people today? How and why does Moses change his mind?
  5. What might be appealing about a belief that gods are invented by people to fulfil their own needs or desires? How is this idea explored in the film? Is this a good or bad reason for rejecting a belief in God?
  6. How does Exodus: Gods and Kings explore the idea that ‘those who crave power are the least fitted to exercise it’? What are the consequences of Ramses’ belief that he is a god, and what might this imply about human nature? To what extent do human beings control our own destiny, and to what extent are we subject to forces more powerful than us? The idea of humans as powerful beings in control of our own destiny became prominent in Western thought during the Age of Enlightenment – a cultural movement beginning in the late 17th Century which argued for reason over tradition and paved the way for a belief in scientific endeavour as a replacement for the religious quest.
  7. How does the film weigh the suffering caused by the plagues against the suffering caused by the actions of Ramses? What questions does it raise about the nature of the God who sent the plagues? What might you want or expect an all-powerful and all-loving God to do in the face of human evil and suffering?
  8. What was particularly striking or surprising about the portrayal of God in the film? Why do you think the filmmakers chose to represent God in this way? To what extent is it possible to describe or represent God? Many films throughout Hollywood’s history have featured portrayals of God. While some films seek to make the figure of God human and relatable – or even to play him for comic effect – others aim to create a sense of awe and mystery. The challenge faced by filmmakers might cause us all to consider how God might reveal himself to us.
  9. Why does the film draw out the distinction between ‘fighting’ with God and ‘wrestling’ with God? What is the difference between these and how is this represented by the differences between Ramses and Moses? What might it mean for us, in our own lives, to wrestle with God?

A great way to quickly get up to speed with the film is to watch either the trailer or a short review of the film by damaris media (scroll down to the 3rd video called faith and gods).

A snapshot of the main world faiths

The video series My Life, My Religion has a really simple format: a child explains how their faith affects their life. You could watch these videos in Year 7 and easily understand them, but they are also useful for students doing their GCSE as a form of revision.

There are thirty minute Christian, Muslim, Jewish,  Hindu and Sikh videos.