Movies Under the Stars: The Poetry of the Ringside Warrior


Once again, Rebuild Foundation and Chicago Film Archives are partnering to present a series of outdoor screenings this summer in the Archive House’s back garden. Come early for a potluck-style dinner starting at 8:30pm!
This second program of our summer film series looks at two poetic and provocative ringside warriors. Both Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, and Muhammad Ali, a more recent title-holder, lived their lives deliberately, publicly and with great flourish and controversy. Both boxers navigated the rough waters of America’s twentieth century race history — Johnson challenging and leveraging the Jim Crow era in the first half of the century and Ali using the ring to champion the black power movement of the 60s and 70s. This program opens with excerpts of Ali’s match with Leon Spinks in February, 1978 when Ali lost the heavyweight championship to a split decision. But the meat of this program is a filmic biography of Jack Johnson’s life. Johnson was a perpetual contestant in the ring as well as other arenas of competition throughout the world. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1970.

ALI VS SPINKS IN LAS VEGAS excerpts, Feb. 15, 1978, 4 min.
Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks battle it out for the heavyweight championship of the world.

JACK JOHNSON, 1970, 90 min.
Carried along by the music of Miles Davis, this film is a poetic and rhythmic rendering of Johnson’s life. Using only archival footage, photographs and even some audio recordings, Jim Jacobs transports us through the early twentieth century world by recounting Johnson’s boxing history and so much more. Johnson was well-travelled, often well-heeled, and made a splash in London, Paris, St. Petersburg and Havana. Through his eyes, we encounter Jim Crow in the states, the belle époque in Paris, WWI, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, WWII and finally his last days back at home stateside.

Friday, July 18 at 9pm

*** Join us at 8:30pm for a potluck-style dinner before the show. Bring a dish or two to share and visit with neighbors and friends while we wait for the summer sun to set. ***

Archive House (back garden)
6918 S. Dorchester Ave.