Hated yesterday, revered today, Mohammed Ali at the heart of a documentary series on Arte


More than a documentary mini-series, it is a beautiful saga that Arte is broadcasting from Tuesday evening with “Mohammed Ali”. This series signed by the American Ken Burns is, as its name suggests, devoted to the life of the boxer born under the name of Cassius Clay and who had renamed himself Mohammed Ali to break with a surname inherited from the slavery suffered by his ancestors. This is far from the first time that Mohammed Ali has been the subject of a documentary. But it takes place in four rounds, for a total duration of eight hours that we do not see go by.

A boxer who was as adored as he was hated in his time, as journalist David Remnick explains in this documentary. “When you think of Mohammed Ali today, you see this vulnerable man lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta. Everyone loves him, black and white alike. He is a universal hero. He is revered religiously as Buddha, “he observes. “But, until the middle of his career, he was very divisive. Some people hated him for racial, social, religious or political reasons. Especially after his refusal to fight in Vietnam. Or they simply did not support him. others adored him. “

A childhood marked by racial segregation

It is precisely all this ambivalence that Ken Burns will explore in his series, through archive images of his fights from an early age (he entered the ring for the first time at 12 years old), testimonies from specialists on his unprecedented rise in the world of boxing, but also more intimate information, with the testimonies of three of his ex-wives and his daughters.

“My oldest memories with my father are when we walked in airports, surrounded by crowds,” explains Hana Ali, one of his daughters, in the documentary. “I could feel people’s applause and screaming on my chest. I looked at my dad wondering who that person was. It was like that all the time. Everywhere we went, people told him he was the best. and that they adored him. I loved to feel the energy and the love that he was receiving. “

The documentary also looks back on the childhood of the boxer born in Louisville, Kentucky, a childhood marked by racial segregation. We also understand that from a very early age, Mohammed Ali already had a strong character. If he became world heavyweight champion at just 22 years old, it was also the period when Cassius Clay changed his name and began to commit to black American rights.

The documentary series is broadcast from Tuesday evening at 8:55 p.m. on Arte, it is already available on Arte.tv.



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