When We Were Kings

Das Films/David Sonenberg Production and Polygram Filmed Entertainment Released 1996


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When We Were Kings

Movie Summary

Leon Gast

When We Were Kings is a documentary film, the Oscar-winning 1996 Best Documentary Feature. The film focuses on the "Rumble in the Jungle," a heavyweight title match between legendary boxers Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. Director Leon Gast uses film footage from the October 30, 1974 fight to tell most of the story, showing much of the famous beat-down given to Foreman by Ali. Gast includes interviews with celebrities such as James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee and Norman Mailer, all speaking of the fight itself, of Ali's performance and of their impressions of Zaire, the host country. Ali is shown being interviewed from Africa in 1974. He speaks of his love and respect for the people of Zaire, a feeling reciprocated by the people. When We Were Kings features musical performances from James Brown and B.B. King, as well as footage from Zaire 74, a soul music festival that accompanied The Rumble in the Jungle.

Metacritic Score

  • 90

    The New York Times Lawrence Van Gelder

    Mr. Gast skillfully blends photographs, celebrity interviews with Norman Mailer and others, and colorful forays into the Zairian countryside, where Ali fostered black brotherhood a...

  • 90

    Variety Todd McCarthy

    Tightly made and populated by a uniformly larger-than-life cast of characters , pic is a total delight for every second of its running time.

  • 70

    Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan

    The resulting film does have a makeshift quality to it, with the new footage, old newsreel shots, circa 1974 interviews, film of the fight and the concerts stitched together in a k...

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