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An interesting historical snapshot of a unique event
The scene is the setting of the 1974 'Rumble in the Jungle' world heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The event is Zaire '74, a three day music festival in Kinshasa that featured black artists from both America and Africa. To this end we have a selection of soul, R&B, funk and blues mixed in with popular African music of the day. The event attracted a few big name American artists such as James Brown, Bill Withers, B.B. King, The Spinners and The Crusaders. But what added to the overall feel of the event was that it uniquely allowed for the African-American musicians to not only perform to a whole new appreciative audience but to also return to their spiritual African roots.
The film is sort of unique because of its historical context where a group of film-makers were paid to professionally document everything but financial red tape resulted in the footage remaining unseen for over thirty years. Not only does this give the material an extra interest factor in itself but it has allowed for a new documentary to be made entirely using old unseen footage. Wisely, the editors have decided to only use footage from the time, with no contemporary interviews of participants looking back at events and reminiscing. This achieves two things in that it makes the material seem more urgent and of the time, while also attempting to finish the project that was abandoned over three decades previously by only using the footage actually shot. It documents events from the pre-concert stages through to the finale of the show. The details surrounding the event, like snippets of the locals, interviews with the participants and behind the scenes details make it a very interesting and rounded historical document. The fight itself is marginalised, although we do hear promoter Don King in full flow and Ali is seen several times letting fly with many of his opinions on race-related issues of the day. The music itself perhaps doesn't get as much of a showcase as it might but I think overall by including all of the periphery details the film-makers have captured a time and place even better.
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