Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali forces us to be introspective as we learn about the interpersonal relationship between these revolutionary Black figures.
Netflix documentary Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali was released on the streaming service on September 9, 2021.
“Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali were the two most freest Black men of the 20th century,” says Dr. Cornel West.
Some of the most notable men in Black history, Muslim history, and Black Muslim history are Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. They were both instrumental in crafting a vision for Black people in the US and abroad. For so long, we’ve learned about their stories individually, as a boxer or as an activist, but we hear very little about their friendship or interactions.
Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali begins as two different life stories that eventually meet in the middle. From Malcolm’s upbringing, the influence of Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam, and his beliefs on the inherent differences between black people and white people. In contrast, we come to learn about how Muhammad Ali was an extremely confident boxer, who took pride in his skill, ability, and sport. But when it was time to meet, we learn in the documentary that Malcolm did not know who Ali was — he just knew about the implications of boxing under Islam.
What I really appreciate about the archival documentary is that there are a host of academics, religious leaders, and family telling the stories of both Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. With interviews from Hana Ali, Maryum Ali, and Rahman Ali — Ali’s daughters and brothers — they paint a story about the life of Muhammad Ali, detailing some sides to him that the public never knew. Similarly, with Ilyasah Shabazz, their family members tell their stories, reminding us that these stories never died with these notable men but still live through their families.
Though both Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali were different figures, the documentary doesn’t stray away from any inconsistencies and contradictions in their friendship. For instance, prior to Malcolm X denouncing his affiliations with the Nation of Islam, he was part of their organization but Ali was quite hesitant to let his affiliations with the Nation go public considering their reputation about being “anti-white”, for obvious reasons. However, the documentary doesn’t really delve into how the men severed ties but his daughter, Hani Ali, mentions how breaking his friendship with Malcolm was one of the biggest regrets in his life.
This 5-star documentary is a moving and deeply meaningful exploration of the lives of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, allowing the audience to learn more about their lives, values, and importantly their friendship.
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