A new documentary series on Muhammad Ali, featuring interviews with the boxing legend’s family and key figures from the boxing world, will air on PBS this fall, Urban Hollywood 411 has learned.
The four-part series titled Muhammad Ali is directed and executive produced by Emmy-winning filmmaker Ken Burns (The Civil War and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson). Sarah Burns and David McMahon serve as co-writers, co-directors and producers on the project.
“Muhammad Ali was the very best at what he did,” Ken Burns said in a statement. “He was arguably America’s greatest athlete, and his unflinching insistence that he be unabashedly himself at all times made him a beacon for generations of people around the world seeking to express their own humanity.”
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The docuseries includes interviews with the late boxing great’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 boxing promoter Don King, 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, journalist and Ali biographer Jonathan Eig, poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, professor of religion Sherman Jackson, former Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson, friend and business manager Gene Kilroy, and more.
“Muhammad Ali is a national icon whose life and legacy are woven into the fabric of American history,” added Sylvia Bugg, PBS’ chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming. “PBS is committed to sharing stories that deepen understanding and reflect a diversity of perspectives, and we’re thrilled to bring this extraordinary biopic to our audiences this fall.”
Here’s the official description from PBS: “The series details the story of the athlete who called himself — and was considered by many to be — ‘the greatest of all time’ and 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 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.”
A production of Florentine Films and WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., the film is narrated by Keith David, with original music provided by Jahlil Beats. Buddy Squires was the cinematographer.
Muhammad Ali will premiere on PBS September 19-22 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
[Muhammad Ali is shown in the image above from Shutterstock signing autographs for fans at San Antonio airport in 1979]