Muhammad Ali: Made In Miami
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (28th August 2008).
The Film

Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. Cassius Clay, may be the most legendary figure in sports, at the very least he’s the most covered with many documentaries, retrospectives, biographical movies or magazine issues dedicated to covering his life or his talent. PBS’s recent one hour special “Muhammad Ali: Made In Miami” (2008) directed by Alan Tomlinson is a nice, though brief, coverage of this almost mythical Ali.

Most of the documentary is told as a making of almost, how Cassius Clay modeled his public persona and created the image of himself as a mythical figure, even though he had the talent to back it up. Through interviews with actual trainers and people who were in Miami at the time Ali came to the city and made his name, along with other cultural historians in talking about the making of his persona and the cultural significance of the time. The documentary covers the bare minimum incredibly well, his fight with Lister, the making of his different rhymes and sayings and creating his image as “The Greatest” and importantly his friendship with Malcolm X and his relationship with the nation of Islam. Outside of archive footage Ali himself never appears in the documentary, which is understandable, but they do a good job of those who were either close to Ali at the time or people who could wax nostalgic about Ali’s formative years.

However there’s not much beyond the simple hour that is covered, I keep feeling like I wanted to see more, almost like this one hour special could easily be a part of a larger mini-series covering Ali, since his life is fairly complicated especially after he leaves Miami. The setup to build him from birth to Miami is fairly short, but this is understandable considering the documentary just centers on his time in Miami.

Overall, for what it is it’s really well done; solid archive footage along with some good interviews that are very insightful. It does a good job of covering the social and cultural aspects of the time, just enough to set up their relevance to Ali and his story in Miami. It’s length almost make it feel like it was made to be shown in a history class. At times, the film itself helps to contribute to the mythologizing of Ali, almost taking him an unreal figure, but balances this all out with the harsh realities of segregation and racism that Ali faced along with a deeper examination of his media personality that’s definitely worth watching. I just wish they had the budget to turn it into a larger series and do more coverage since it feels like there are some big aspects missing.


Though it was made for TV, “Made in Miami” is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and shows a lot of care in its presentation, there’s a good use of archived footage that looks well restored. The interviews that were filmed recently look good, the transfer of the DVD in the archive and current footage melds together well, and even the older footage looks crisp. The balance between archive footage and modern interviews/voiceovers work together really well and help to bring the stills and older footage used even better.


For the English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo quality, the audio is clear for the interviews, but a couple of the segments of the interviews sound a little washed out. Otherwise the archived audio and music chosen to be used in the film work incredibly well, the archive audio comes through well. There could have been a bit more done in terms of creating the sound track and giving it a bigger 5.1 track, though how necessary that is for a PBS documentary is questionable and it may have made the archive audio sound worse by trying to force the quality up too high. Overall a fine audio mix, good levels, good use of music and sound with the interviews though the sound quality in a couple of the segments minorly changes and is more just a quick annoyance than negative for the overall quality.
There are no optional subtitles available on this disc.


Paramount has released this PBS film with not a lot of extras here on the disc, one featurette and one theatrical trailer, but what’s on the disc is worth watching

“A Conversation with the Producers” runs for 28 minutes and 50 seconds. This featurette runs nearly as long as the special itself and features co-producer/cultural historian Gaspar González and co-producer/director Alan Tomlinson talking about how the short documentary was brought to televison and how it was first created by González as photo-essay for a magazine. The two talk about building towards a TV series and their collaboration, around with doing a fair amount of talking about Ali himself. An interesting insight on how these types of specials get made and a good look behind the scenes.

“‘Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami’ is a trailer which is basically a Preview for the TV special which runs for 3 minutes and 31 seconds.


The Film: A- Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: A-


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