When Ali Came To Ireland

2013 True Films/RTE Dir: Ross Whitaker

“an evocative, informative and wholly engaging documentary, which managed a nicely wry tone before finally becoming genuinely elegiac…”

“Hugely entertaining… a glorious cast of characters.”

“The work to piece the story together is visible in every frame.”

“An excellent documentary… the cast of characters is rich and deep.”

IFTA WINNER 2013Best Sports
Best Sports

This was a great documentary to work on, a cracking story that belts along with a eclectic mix of characters and a very unique Irish take on a chapter in the life of one of the most charismatic people in the world, Muhammad Ali.The film centres on the 1972 fight, in Croke Park, between Ali and the American challenger Al “Blue” Lewis, an ex-convict who miraculously won parole from a life-sentence for murder in his native Detroit. They were brought together in Dublin by an ex-circus strongman from Kerry, a colourful bar-owner who billed himself as “The World’s Strongest Publican”.

The documentary also features contributions from, among others, Cathal O’Shannon, in his last recorded TV interview. And, from his home in Detroit, Al ‘Blue’ Lewis, Rock Brynner – the son of actor Yul Brynner – who was a confidante of Ali and who was part of his entourage in Ireland, the former Kilkenny hurler, Eddie Keher, who famously taught Ali how to use a hurley and sliothar as part of the pre-publicity for the fight, journalist and broadcaster Dave Hannigan, author of ‘The Big Fight’, and the respected American sports journalist, the late George Kimball.

The Film was first broadcast on New Years Day 2013 at 6:30 and met with great positive feedback online and with audiences genrally. In mid december the IFI held a preview screening as part of their Ireland on Screen strand which runs every sunday. The film attracted the biggest ever audience to the IFI for that slot and the screening was a great success and everyone at it really enjoyed the film. From a personal point of view, it was great to see and hear an audiences reaction to the film, its a treat you rarely get with tv documentary. Usually the show airs and while you might see some reaction on social media, its not quite the same as experiencing that reaction in the flesh. After the screening there was a lively Q&A with Ross and some of the contributors with people in the panel and in the audience sharing their recollections of Ali in Ireland. It was a great experience that I won’t forget in a long time.

Check out the trailer below.

IFI Ireland on Screen, Dec 2012
Chicago Irish Film Festival March 2013
Focal Archive Festival, London, June 2013
Irish Film New York, October 2013
BendFilm, Oregon, October 2013
Capital Film Festival, Washington DC, December 2013

Best Sport Documentary IFTA 2013
Best Documentary, IFNY 2013

Article from the Irish Times on the film
Article from the Irish Independent
article from the Irish Examiner
Article from the Journal

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