Cheo Tyehimba
July 11, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Leon Gast’s Academy Award-winning documentary, When We Were Kings, is a testament not only to Muhammad Ali’s uncanny ability to fuse athletics and politics but also to the director’s 22-year odyssey. Hired by promoter Don King to make a concert film of the festivities attending the Rumble in the Jungle — Ali’s near-mythic 1974 comeback bout against George Foreman in now-deposed despot Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire — Gast has given posterity something much more satisfying: a gorgeous mosaic of history, music, and sport in which Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Spike Lee, and Ali biographer Thomas Hauser provide the ’90s perspective and James Brown, Miriam Makeba, B.B. King, and others supply the ’70s soul-fest. Despite the big price, this is a video to own. A

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