you my opposer when i want freedom
I ain't draft dodging. I ain't burning no flag. I ain't running to Canada. I'm staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I've been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain't going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I'll die right here, right now, fightin' you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won't even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won't even stand up for my right here at home.
Ali's professional exile, which lasted until the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971, is the subject of "The Trials of Muhammad Ali," one of the year's more anticipated documentaries.
The work of Chicago filmmaker Bill Siegel, it comes to the Music Box Theatre in November. "There is a lot of Chicago in this story," Siegel said when we met for lunch recently, "from the Nation of Islam being headquartered here to the fact that Ali lived here" in the Kenwood neighborhood, right down the street from where Minister Louis Farrakhan resides today. Ali and his family stayed on the South Side until the early '70s, during some of the toughest years in his career, as his case wound its way through the courts. The film "achieves something more than just being a nuts-and-bolts documentary," according to an early review on Indiewire. "It presents Ali as naive, brash, too easily reflexive, but also earnest and truly thoughtful. " That's because Siegel has unearthed rare footage of Ali on talk shows and college campuses, vehemently defending his position as a conscientious objector.
In return, he faces an avalanche of negative sentiment. One argument that few have likely heard Ali articulate is the financial folly of a government willing to cut off its nose to spite its face by drafting a man who, thanks to his heavyweight boxing income, was forking over $6 million a year in taxes. "I would go to ABC and go through their catalog," Siegel says, "and I always knew I hit gold when they'd bring stuff out on film. You have to think everything on Muhammad Ali has been transferred to video and most of it was but I was asking for stuff they'd never bothered to transfer. " "I find nothing amusing or interesting or tolerable about this man," TV producer David Susskind says during one such interview in which Ali is beamed to a London studio from Chicago via satellite. "He's a disgrace to his country, his race and what he laughingly describes as his profession. " Ali absorbs the words, the wire from his earpiece snaking down his left side, and you're left to wonder how he maintained his composure in that moment.
Siegel mentions another clip in the film of William F. Buckley Jr. "He went after Ali, and Ali took him apart. And watching that segment, I realized: This is not a boxing film, but it is a fight film. " Getting the doc made proved to be a fight of its own. That seems to fit with Siegel's interests. As a filmmaker, he has been drawn to subjects born in conflict, nabbing an Oscar nomination for his 2002 doc "The Weather Underground," about the radical activist group.
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