The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Despite being handed the Presidential Citizens Medal by George W. Bush in 2005, Bill Siegel’s doc looks back at a time when Muhammad Ali wasn’t even allowed to defend his World Heavyweight Championship in the United States thanks to his proud Muslim faith and his conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s. It was a point in time where Ali was vilified as being anti-American, as evidenced by the film’s striking opening archival sequence where interviewer David Susskind essentially calls the fighter formerly known as Cassius Clay as being a less than human waste of space.
Starting in 1960, shortly after Clay won the Gold Medal at the Olympics, Siegel takes a closer look at the personal choices and decisions that most boxing scholars and pop culture aficionados take for granted when talking about the greatest fighter of all time. Tracing his roots with the Nation of Islam – and the effect the imminent break between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad had on him – Siegel portrays Ali as a vital and prescient voice for a black community that was desperately need of unwavering heroes from any religious background during the civil rights movement. Siegel also never pulls his punches when dealing with Ali’s most contentious moments, especially his remarks about Vietnam and his fervent belief that all white people were secretly devils.
But there’s also a lot to be said for the pain Ali suffers while being forced to live in exile for refusing to allow himself to be drafted into the army. It’s a sadder, more human portrait of the man than there has been in quite some time. It wraps up somewhat abruptly and awkwardly, and it never really bothers to focus on any of his actual in-ring abilities, but for the film’s thesis about a successful man forced into both literal and metaphorical wars he wants no part of, it stays on point.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali will be screening on Sunday, October 13th at 4:30pm as a part of the Bloor’s Sunday Salon’s series, which will include a complementary post-film glass of wine and a discussion about the film. This week’s guest: NOW Magazine and MSN Canada film writer Norm Wilner.
Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli
I guess for any working relationship to survive over 50 years, there has to be a presupposed degree of agreement to a certain level of simplicity. For famed Italian designers and married partners Lella & Massimo Vignelli – partners who live by the creedo “If you can’t find it, design it” – trust was gained over time in a relationship that visibly continues to strengthen and grow in Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra’s well researched insider look.
Often letting Lella and Massimo speak for themselves (only really turning to the gallery of talking heads and experts for needed context and more precise background information), Brew and Guerra look at the versatile industry pioneers and how they have changed their core set of beliefs very little since they arrived bringing Italian design to America in the early 1960, almost immediately landing gigs with the New York Transit Authority, Ford, and American Airlines (who still use their Helvetica based logo). Lella and Massimo come across as incredibly rational thinkers who could never be dreamed of as being behind the curve. That could possibly be because from chairs to jewellery to typefaces to suits to maps, these two pretty much invented and continue to inform and shape the curve. What’s far more heartening is the humility and good humour that the pair carry with them when they could afford to be a bit more full of themselves at this point in their illustrious careers.
Still, there’s not a lot here that people heavily interested in design will likely gravitate towards or be all that interested in. Aside from a few moments, Lella and Massimo’s personal lives are largely left unbroached in favour of grander discussion about the semantics and syntax of design. It’s all interesting provided that you go into it wanting to be interested by such things.
Also at the Bloor this week:
The imagineNATIVE Film Festival kicks off with their opening night screening of the film Mystery Road at 7:00pm on Wednesday, October 16th. More information can be found at imaginenative.org. A look at this year’s festival will be coming this Tuesday.
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May and NOW Magazine ecology writer Adria Vasil will be on hand for back to back screenings of the climate change documentary DO THE MATH on Tuesday, October 15th at 5:45pm and 8:15pm. The screening is sponsored by Toronto350.org, and more information can be found on their site. Tickets are free and there will apparently be a lot of free stuff. And from having seen both May and Vasil talk before, I can vouch for it being something worth checking out based on that alone.