Home Leisure & Sports Muhammad Ali documentary by Ken Burns on PBS Sept. 19-22

Muhammad Ali documentary by Ken Burns on PBS Sept. 19-22

by Cass Teague

Muhammad Ali talks with the press after reclaiming the Heavyweight Championship for an unprecedented third time by beating Leon Spinks at the Super Dome in New Orleans, LA. September 15, 1978. (Courtesy of Michael Gaffney)

Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali, a new four-part documentary series, airs on September 19 – 22, 7 to 9 p.m. CDT nightly on NPT in Nashville. Muhammad Ali, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, was in development for six years. Written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, whose previous collaborations with Burns include The Central Park Five (2012), Jackie Robinson (2016) and East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story (2020), the entire eight-hour documentary series will be available for streaming beginning Sunday, Sept. 19. Muhammad Ali will be available to stream for free on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast.

The film follows the life of one of the most consequential men of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated billions of fans with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring, and his charm, wit and outspokenness outside of it. At the height of his fame, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our society, and inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self-affirmation.

Drawing from an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses — including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others — Burns, Burns and McMahon have created a sweeping portrait of an American icon. The series details the story of the athlete who called himself — and was considered by many to be — “the greatest of all time.” Ali competed in some of the most dramatic and widely viewed sporting events ever, including “The Fight of the Century” and “The Thrilla in Manila,” both against his great rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle,” in which he defeated George Foreman to regain the heavyweight title that was stripped from him seven years earlier.

Muhammad Ali includes interviews with Ali’s daughters Hana Ali and Rasheda Ali, his second wife Khalilah Ali, his third wife Veronica Porche, and his brother and confidant Rahaman Ali. Others appearing in the film include activist and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, boxing promoter Bob Arum, anthropologist Donna Auston, childhood friend Vic Bender, former heavyweight boxing champion and playwright Michael Bentt, author Todd Boyd, sportswriter Howard Bryant, law professor and co-founder of the Weather Underground Bernardine Dohrn, historian Gerald Early, journalist and Ali biographer Jonathan Eig, poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, childhood friend Alice Houston, sportswriter Jerry Izenberg, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, professor of religion Sherman Jackson, former Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson, friend and business manager Gene Kilroy, sportswriter Dave Kindred, boxing promoter Don King, lawyer Tom Krattenmaker, sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, lawyer Michael Meltsner, novelist Walter Mosley, journalist Salim Muwakkil, long-time friend Abdul Rahman, New Yorker editor David Remnick, photographer Lowell Riley, historian Randy Roberts, childhood friend Owen Sitgraves, friend Victor Solano, Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Soyinka, writer Gay Talese, writer Quincy Troupe, and sportswriter Dave Zirin.

Muhammad Ali also captures Ali’s principled resistance to the Vietnam War, his steadfast commitment to his Muslim faith, and his complex relationships with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, who profoundly shaped his life and worldview.

While he is largely celebrated today as an icon of American sport and culture, Ali was not always widely embraced. At times he was reviled by many in American society, especially white Americans and white members of the media, who rejected his faith and feared his involvement with the Nation of Islam. Ali also faced a firestorm of criticism when he said, “I ain’t got nothing against them Viet Cong” and refused induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious beliefs — a stance that would result in five years of legal jeopardy and a three-and-a-half-year banishment from boxing.

Here are the titles and duration/lengths of each of the four episodes, along with additional airings on NPT and NPT2 in Nashville:

Round One: The Greatest (1942-1964) #101  Duration: 2:11:46

Boxer Cassius Clay rises up the amateur ranks to win gold at the 1960 Olympics. He turns professional, sharpening his boxing skills and honing his genius for self-promotion. In 1964, he upsets Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion.

Additional Airings

9:15pm 09/19/2021 | NPT-HD

1:00am, 09/20/2021 | NPT-HD

2:00am, 09/21/2021 | NPT-HD

Round Two: What’s My Name? (1964-1970) #102  Duration: 1:56:46

Cassius Clay publicly joins the Nation of Islam and takes the name Muhammad Ali. When he refuses induction into the Army, he is stripped of his title and forced into exile. After three years, he returns to the ring, but he’s lost a step.

Additional Airings

9:00pm, 09/20/2021 | NPT-HD

3:00am, 09/21/2021 | NPT2

7:00am, 09/22/2021 | NPT2

12:00pm, 09/23/2021 | NPT2

2:00am, 09/22/2021 | NPT-HD

Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-1974) #103 Duration: 1:56:46

Muhammad Ali battles his fiercest rival, Joe Frazier, and the U.S. government, as he attempts to regain the heavyweight title. He first loses to and then defeats Frazier, but to become champion again, he will have to beat George Foreman.

Additional Airings

9:00pm, 09/21/2021 | NPT-HD

3:00am, 09/22/2021 | NPT2

7:00am, 09/23/2021 | NPT2

12:00pm, 09/24/2021 | NPT2

2:00am, 09/23/2021 | NPT-HD

Round Four: The Spell Remains (1974-2016) #104 Duration: 1:56:46

Muhammad Ali shocks the world by defeating George Foreman, winning back the heavyweight title and becoming the most famous man on earth. After retiring in 1981, he travels the world spreading his Islamic faith, and becomes a symbol of peace and hope.

Additional Airings

9:00pm, 09/22/2021 | NPT-HD

12:00am, 09/23/2021 | NPT2

3:00am, 09/23/2021 | NPT2

7:00am, 09/24/2021 | NPT2

12:00pm, 09/27/2021 | NPT2

2:00am, 09/24/2021 | NPT-HD

Related Posts