Inspire Media and For Members Only: Northwestern Black Student Alliance co-sponsored the screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali tonight in the Block Museum.
The film focused on boxer Muhammad Ali’s conversion to Islam and his choice to be a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War. Though the film covered his boxing career, the film’s producer and Northwestern graduate Rachel Pikelny said this documentary explains who he was beyond his career.
“There have been so many films on Muhammad Ali … but this is a story that really hadn’t been told before this film, we thought, in a way that it deserved, in the detail that it deserved,” she said.
Pikelny also said the film gives more details of Ali’s conviction of draft evasion and the Supreme Court case. Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of both his faith and his belief that African-Americans should not fight for a war abroad when they were not truly free in America.
Christian Kriticos, a graduate student studying English, said he came to the screening because he is interested in documentaries, especially ones by Kartemquin Films. He said he is from England and that he didn’t know anything about Ali’s story before watching.
“I’m not very interested in sport, but sports people themselves I find very interesting,” Kriticos said. “When you’re in the public eye so much, I guess when you’re driven so hard to be brilliant, I think there’s always a kind of madness that comes with that, which I find interesting … These sports figures, people in the public eye, they have lives that we don’t necessarily know about or we might forget about.”
Ali’s private life still carries meaning today, Pikelny said.
“This part of Ali’s life is not – it doesn’t live in a bubble,” she said. “We’re still facing a lot of the same issues today concerning race and identity and freedom of religion and speech and all of these things, what Ali stood for.”
The Trials of Muhammad Aliwill air on PBS on April 14.