There are those feel-good documentaries that you will never forget. When We Were Kings and Soul Power are both about the “Rumble in the Jungle”, the Ali-Foreman fight in 1974 in Mobutu’s Zaire (now Congo). Both films were made against all odds, and complicated by the fact that the fight was delayed by weeks because Foreman suffered an eye injury in the ring. Foreman, the reigning champion, was bigger and younger than Ali, and was expected to flatten the former title holder. Ali the challenger knocked out Foreman in the eighth round, causing Howard Cossell to drop his cigar and causing sports journalists to call this the greatest fight of all time and the sporting event of the 20th century. It was one of fight promoter Don King‘s first big matches.
Ali got on with the Congolese. Foreman didn’t. For one thing, it didn’t help endear George Foreman when he descended the ramp of his plane with a German shepherd, looking big and scary, because those were the same dogs that the Belgians had used in the Congo to thwart any opposition or resistance.
Additionally, there was the music festival going on at the same time as the fight, chronicled in the music documentary Soul power, featuring The Spinners, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Fania All Stars, Celia Cruz, Manu Dibango, Bill Withers, and James Brown. James Brown was already well known in Africa and his 1971 hit “Say It Out Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” found resonance among citizens of newly-independent African countries.
Here are trailers from both films: even the trailers are fun to watch. What a picture of the 1970’s! There is an unforgettable scene on the plane en route to Africa with all the musicians jamming together. See these films–especially if you weren’t around in the 1970s.
When We Were Kings
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