April 10, 2014 1:46 pm
"Every life is valuable and everyone's story is mighty, but not everyone packs a punch like Ali." - Bill Siegel.
On Monday, April 14 at 10pmET/9C The Trials of Muhammad Ali will have its television broadcast premiere on PBS Independent Lens. In an unprecedented first for PBS, Independent Lens' OVEE platform will also present a simultaneous online premiere and live chat with director Bill Siegel!
The Trials of Muhammad Ali covers the explosive crossroads of Ali's life. When Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali, his conversion to Islam and refusal to serve in the Vietnam War leave him banned from boxing and facing a five-year prison sentence. Ali's choice of belief and conscience over fame and fortune resonates far beyond the boxing ring, striking issues of race, faith and identity that continue to confront us all today.
The IDA award-winning and NAACP Image Award-nominated film has been a labor of love for director Bill Siegel, who locates the genesis of the film around 20 years ago while doing research for another Ali doc, Muhammad Ali - The Whole Story. In a new interview with Michael Galinsky at Documentary.org, Siegel details how he rescued his story from the ashes of that failed project, as did Trials executive producer Leon Gast, who made When We Were Kings from his own research. Siegel also details how funding for the project was very difficult to come by due to what he terms "Ali fatigue", and how essential support and belief in the project from ITVS, Independent Lens, Kartemquin and the Ford Foundation was to getting the project completed.
Says Siegel: "In the end, our reaction to Ali, tells us as much, if not more, about ourselves than Ali himself," noting that "the audience always completes the picture, and every audience member completes it differently. If you are thoughtful in how you evaluate Ali, he is a cipher for enough of the last 50 years of history, for your evaluation to say at least as much about you, your morals, your worldview and your own identity, as whatever you have to say about him." (Read more at www.Documentary.org)
In an interview with Tom Roston for P.O.V.'s blog, Bill also stated that "I really got from him, without him ever saying it, that he’s merely one guy and none of us are ever any more than that, but that every person is a mighty force worth knowing. I know that sounds so simple, but it was very formative for me, seeing Muhammad Ali demonstrate the difference between loving yourself versus being egotistical, by seeing him love everyone around him just as much."
Roston argues that since When We Were Kings, "watching Ali on screen has felt like a rerun. Often, a good one, but nothing new. Until now." We hope you will tune in via PBS or OVEE, and agree!
Watch the opening two minutes of the film:
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The Trials of Muhammad Ali is released on DVD on April 22! Drop by our store to pre-order your copy and use coupon code PRE2214 for 25% off!