PBS documentarian Ken Burns, known for his films The Civil War and Country Music, didn’t start working on a new Muhammad Ali documentary eight years ago thinking that the boxer’s story would be just as relevant today as it was during Ali’s prime, but that’s proven to be exactly the case.
“When you make a decision in 2013 to do something on Muhammad Ali, you don’t think, ‘Oh, we’re going to be arriving in a post-Trumpian, COVID world that has Black Lives Matter,’” he tells Molly Jong-Fast on the latest bonus episode of The New Abnormal.
The film covers all aspects of Ali’s life, though, explains Burns. “The four wives, the many children, the brother, the flirtation with the Nation of Islam, the joining of the Nation of Islam, the abandonment of his teacher and friend and mentor Malcolm X, all of the ways he diverged from the traditional civil rights movement and the way that he connected with the spectacularness of his comeback, his fight with the U.S. government. It’s just so interrelated,” Burns says.