Filmmaker Clare Lewins deconstructs the myth of Muhammad Ali; legendary boxer, father, civil rights supporter and friend.
There is little doubt that Muhammad Ali has inspired people around the world, and that he, at the peak of his fame and strength, was a force to be reckoned with. I Am Ali, however, is a film that tries to show a different side of Ali, but in trying to show too many sides, becomes a little lost.
Director Clare Lewins was given unprecedented access to Ali’s friend, family and mentors while making this film, as well as audio journals that the fighter kept throughout his life. The trouble is that Ali is a man who has been profiled and portrayed so may times before, and is someone who the world is aware of on many different levels that, even with all of this audio – some of which borders on the tiresome – I Am Ali does not do much to tell the audience anything new.
I Am Ali is a film that is not really going to tell audiences anything they did not already know, other than the man liked to keep audio diaries for the sake of his children, and struggles with the amount of people and information it tries to cram into its running time. The film allows Ali’s brother, mentor, children, former partners, fans, friends and enemies to speak about their experience of him, and this is interspersed with archive footage of him as a fighter. This is all well and good, but in trying to get a rounded picture of Ali as an athlete, supporter of civil rights and a conscientious objector, as well as a family man and friend, we are really only left with the impression that Ali was a man who liked people, and had a kind heart. Anything deeper than that is lost.
In all, I Am Ali is a film that tries to be something new, different and exciting, but tells the audience little that they do not already know. For new fans of Ali, however, there are plenty of jumping off points here, to learn more about the man who inspired so many. I Am Ali is a film that has an incredibly strong inspiration, but ends up feeling weak.