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When We Were Kings is an Academy Award-winning 1996 documentary film directed by Leon Gast about the famous Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight championship match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Zairemarker (now the DR Congomarker; all references are to Zaire) on October 30, 1974. It highlights Muhammad Ali's trademark wit and charisma, as well as his superb ring generalship during the fight itself.

Subject matter

The film shows the buildup to the fight. Ali is shown talking about his beliefs regarding Africans and African-Americans, speaking of the inherent dignity of the native Africans and his hopes for African-Americans in the future. His relationship with the people of Zaire is shown, with the mutual love between Ali and the people of the nation contrasted with Foreman's awkward and unsuccessful efforts to build his own popularity. Promoter Don King is shown working on his first big promotion, and singers James Brown and B. B. King performing in Zaire. The film contains footage of the "black Woodstockmarker" soul music festival accompanying the fight, which is more fully documented in the 2008 film Soul Power. The film also emphasises the questionable ethics of locating the fight in Zaïre, as it was funded by the brutal dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Spike Lee and Thomas Hauser gave interviews for the film, describing their impressions of Zaire, the fight itself, and particularly their impressions of Ali. The film itself contains these interviews, with many news clips and photos.

The film shows much of the fight itself, particularly Ali's famous "rope-a-dope" which caused Foreman to expend too much energy and resulted in his eighth-round knockout. It describes in detail Ali's repeated use of the "right-hand lead" in the early rounds, a rarely-utilized punch in professional boxing because it opens the boxer up for easy attack, and therefore the punch that Foreman was least prepared for. Ali is shown taking what look like heavy blows from the hard-throwing Foreman, which are lessened by Ali's quick reflexes and use of the ropes. As Foreman throws with power, Ali is able to use his trademark quick hands to damage the heavyweight champion, and in the eighth round Ali knocks out the exhausted Foreman, regaining the championship taken from him for his refusal to be drafted into the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

A soundtrack album was released in 1997. It features live festival performances in addition to new music by Zelma Davis, the duet When We Were Kings performed by Brian McKnight and Diana King, and "Rumble In The Jungle", the final recording done by The Fugees, in a collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes.

Awards and recognition

When We Were Kings is frequently regarded as one of the best boxing documentaries ever, having received strong reviews from critics such as Roger Ebert [73060] and Edward Guthmann .

The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. At the presentation, both Ali and Foreman came up to join the filmmakers to make it clear they had long made peace since that match, with Foreman even helping Ali up the stairs.

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