Both When We Were Kings and Ali depicted Muhammad Ali’s life and provided information on him. In Kings, it involved actual participants who were there at that time. In Ali, history is re-enacted and told in story form.
Ali tells the story of Ali from his childhood to the time he beat George Foreman. However, Kings focused mainly on the match between Ali and Foreman and the implications of the match on Zaire’s and President Mobutu’s rise in world ranks. Thus, Ali has a wider time-frame and thus, more aspects of Ali are uncovered when compared to Kings. In the beginning of Ali, we see young Ali moving to the back of the bus, somewhat reluctantly. This scene highlights the influence of black segregation on Ali even from his childhood. This is not shown in Kings. Thus, the wider time-frame in Ali served its purpose, providing more information, insights and “truths” of him.
Comparing both films, we see that they have similar scenes. Scenes like when Ali was in the airplane with black crew, Ali meeting people in Africa amidst chants of “Ali Boma Ye” and the final showdown with Foreman are such few. Kings was released in 1996 and Ali in 2001. could there have been some reference to Kings when Ali was made? If Kings had “truths”, Ali would have more “truths”, given its wider time frame, wouldn’t it?
As Ali involves a main actor whom we follow throughout the story, we are able to “feel” more for Ali himself, having seen him as a child to a married man. We are able to experience his ups and downs. Ali would therefore be more emotional-stirring than Kings, which had used short, broken clips. Moreover, Kings featured mainly on one aspect, in contrast to Ali’s numerous, that is, the match between Ali and Foreman.
Another important thing to note is that the executive film producer of Ali is Howard Bingham. He, as seen in Ali, is the photographer in some notable scenes. He as Ali’s best friend, has observed Ali through his career. Thus, he was able to relive scenes and cuts he had experienced once as a photographer. This adds on to the ‘truthfulness” of Ali.
Although Kings features actual participants, we must realize that they are there to give personal views and opinions, and not facts. The viewer ultimately has the discretion of deciding on the “truth”. However in Ali, the viewer does not have an avenue for an argument since none is brought up, thus accepting what he sees as the “truth”.
The old clips and interviews in Kings set up a nostalgic atmosphere, leading the viewer to think everything in it is true. However, this is misleading since it could be seen that despite not involving actual participants, Ali is able to re-enact the scenes with the exact “truthfulness”.
In conclusion, Ali portrays as more “truthful”, primarily because it provides more information, though obscure, due to its wider time-frame and larger aspects in the film.