Posted on Thursday, August 19th, 2021 by Joshua Meyer
The trailer for Blood Brothers: Muhammad Ali & Malcolm X is here, giving us our first look at Marcus A. Clarke‘s upcoming Netflix documentary. It promises to be a revealing examination of the relationship between two icons: the king of the boxing ring, Muhammad Ali, and the slain civil rights activist, Malcolm X. As the Reverend Al Sharpton puts it in the trailer, “They defined a whole generation to be themselves and be bold.”
In Blood Brothers, Sharpton is one interviewee seen onscreen; another is Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, who is also developing her own separate television series about her father. She talks about how Malcolm and Muhammad Ali came from two different worlds, but how “it was destiny that they would meet.” This comes soon after Ali’s own words at the beginning of the trailer: “Destiny can take your best friend as an instrument to cause you harm.”
Here’s the synopsis via Netflix:
Blood Brothers tells the extraordinary and ultimately tragic story of the friendship between two of the most iconic figures of the 20th century: Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, and Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam’s – and black America’s – most incendiary and charismatic leader. This was the unlikeliest of friendships – the brash Olympic Champion who spoke in verse to the amusement of the white press and the ex-con intellectual-turned-revolutionary who railed against the evils of white oppression and dismissed sports as a triviality. But their bond was deep, their friendship real.
The documentary will include insights from other family members. Rahman Ali and Maryum Ali, the younger brother and daughter of Muhammad Ali, also appear, as do notable figures like Cornell West. View the trailer below.
Filling That Empty Chair
When last we told you about Blood Brothers, we discussed how it might look beyond One Night in Miami, director Regina King‘s Oscar-nominated 2020 film, written by Kemp Powers in an adaptation of his stage play. That film was a fictionalized exploration of a night that brought together the two titular blood brothers, along with singer Sam Cooke and footballer Jim Brown, in the same Florida hotel room.
In One Night in Miami, there’s a pivotal scene where Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) is standing on stage with Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad (Jerome A. Wilson). In that staccato voice of his, Elijah Muhammad tells the audience, “The world champion will no longer be known as Cassius Clay. He will be known as Muhammad Ali.”
Ali looks to the side of the stage, where there’s an empty chair, clearly meant for Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Cut to Malcolm X’s house, where firebombs force him and his family to flee into the night. He’s in his bed robe and boxers, and he can only look on as his children cry and his house goes up in flames.
This scene alludes to what happened in real life after Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam. It drove a wedge between him and Ali, two men who had previously been “united by faith” and were now “torn by betrayal,” as the trailer for Blood Brothers tells us. It’s jarring to see Ali in real archival footage, saying, “Malcolm X and anybody else who talks about attacking Elijah Muhammad will die.”
Directed by Marcus A. Clarke and produced by Kenya Barris and Jason Perez, Blood Brothers: Muhammad Ali & Malcolm X drops September 9, 2021.
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