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Revisiting the Champ

Muhammad Ali, surely among the most celebrated public figures of the twentieth century, has always been a controversial figure, never more so than in the late 1960s when, during his first reign as heavyweight boxing champion, he converted to the Nation of Islam, changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, then refused to be conscripted into the US Army – this at a time of particularly heavy fighting in Vietnam.

Bill Siegel’s absorbing, award-winning documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali focuses on Ali’s “years in exile,” when he was stripped of his title and his boxing license revoked. Ali was never one to go down quietly, or without swinging, so he embarked on a lecture tour, ex plaining his political stance with the same unshakable energy he brought to his boxing, weathering a firestorm of criticism and condemnation along the way.

Yet he would not be stopped, nor his words suppressed. And, as history would bear out, he would emerge triumphant.

There’s plenty of vintage footage of Ali in and out of the ring, some of it familiar and some of it fresh, as well as interviews with friends and family members, including Louis Farrakhan, in which they offer their observations, both at the time and in retrospect.

When, in 2005, Ali received the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, which essentially closes the film, the sense of accomplishment is tinged with unmistakable irony.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali will be screened 7 pm Tuesday, March 15 in The Crown at the Carolina Theatre (310 S. Greene St., Greensboro). Tickets are $7 (general admission) or $6 (students, senior citizens, military). For advance tickets or more information, call 336.333.2605 or visit the official Carolina Theatre website: www. carolinatheatre.com/. The official website for The Trials of Muhammad Ali is: www. thetrialsofali.com/.

(For an exclusive interview with filmmaker Bill Siegel, turn to Page 31) !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.

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