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UK: Optimum Releasing
Cast: Muhammad Ali
Director: William Klein
UK: 115 mins
UK Certificate: PG
UK Release Date: 8 February 2002
Universally accepted as a true icon of the 20th Century, Muhammad Ali's phenomenal achievements spanned Sport, Politics and Religion, and one man - photographer William Klein, had comprehensive access to the events that shaped his legend.
Klein, a native New Yorker, studied as a sculptor in Paris before discovering photography and coming to the fashion world's attention through a series of major photo spreads for Vogue. Pioneering the use of telephoto and wide angle photography in fashion spreads, Klein rejected the trend of 'fly on the wall' shoots and emphasised interaction between his camera and his subjects.
A series of highly acclaimed street photography books on cities around the world further raised Klein's standing and in 1962 he moved from still photography to filmmaking, embarking on a mix of contemporary pop films and documentaries. It was at this stage that he became acquainted with a legend in the making.
In 1964, the young, gregarious Cassius Clay successfully defeated the seemingly invincible Heavyweight Champion of the World Sonny Liston - the manner of Clay's victory and his amazing persona made him an instant superstar. Through this incredible period, and Clay's subsequent rematches with Liston, William Klein enjoyed unrivalled access to the Clay camp - witnessing Cassius Clay become Muhammad Ali, angering the American People with his allegiance to Islam, at first hand.
Forward to Zaire 1974, and the return of Muhammad Ali to the world stage. Condemned by the American Government for refusing to go to Vietnam, and the boxing world for defeat against Joe Frasier, Ali arrived in his spiritual homeland to face another invincible champion - George Foreman. As Ali reclaimed the crown for an unprecedented third time, Klein was ever present, capturing the full story at close quarter.
Klein's film is filled with amazing moments such as the unforgettable meeting in 1964 with the Beatles prior to his fight with Liston, where they clowned around in the ring for the cameras and his legengary trip to Zaire in 1974 to meet Mubutu and fight Foreman in the 'Rumble in the Jungle'.
MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST is being released to provide a companion piece to ALI - a new biopic starring Will Smith and directed by Michael Mann.