17th ADIFF Chicago opens with crowd pleaser ‘Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story’

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Muhammad Ali

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ

To celebrate its 17th Anniversary in Chicago, the African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) – hosted by Facets Cinematheque and presented by ArtMattan Productions from June 21 to 27 – will present an exciting line up of national and international fictions and documentaries in the Windy City. With films set in the United States, Mexico, Haiti, Barbados, DRC, Jamaica, and Morocco, ADIFF Chicago will celebrate 17 years of great cinema and great talks with new films, special events and revealing stories!

Senator Leroy Johnson

Opening Night film, “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story” by Art Jones, is a fascinating documentary that recounts the unsung saga that broke boxing’s blacklist status of Muhammad Ali, the champion who said “no” to war and racism. The year is 1970. It has been three and a half years since Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title. Convicted of draft evasion. Threatened with imprisonment. Banned in all 50 states, he is unable to work in the field for which he has no equal. The wide door on his illustrious career seems to be closing. But in Atlanta, Georgia, an astute white businessman, a visionary Black senator, and a progressive Jewish mayor came together to make it possible for Ali to resume his amazing boxing career.

L.A.-based film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell writes about the film: “Jones knows how to tell his story well as he finally reveals this nail-biting bit of fisticuffs’ hidden history, full of suspense and triumph. Jones reveals the surprising role that, of all people, uber-racist governor Lester Maddox (infamous for using ax handles to keep his restaurant segregated) played in the heavyweight’s comeback, as well as that of a Black Southern State Senator, promoters and others. Jerry Quarry’s wife and Quarry himself, the so-called “Great White Hope,” also show themselves to be standup, decent people, so whites aren’t demonized in this exciting tale.

Andrew Young Former United States
Ambassador to the United Nations

Jones delivers a heady haymaker – an entertaining, enlightening good fun crowd-pleaser full of consciousness. This knockout doc was one of PAFF’s gems and is a must-see for everyone who’s a fan of sports, dissent, top-notch film making and, but of course, of “The Greatest.” “Ali’s Comeback” is guaranteed to make you rise out of your seat chanting: ‘Ali! Ali! Ali!’ An audience favorite, “Ali’s Comeback” won the Audience Award for a Documentary Feature at PAFF.

Director Art Jones will attend the ADIFF Chicago Opening Night Event screening of “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story” to be held at Facets Cinematheque (1517 W. Fullerton Ave.) on Friday, June 21, starting with a catered reception at 8 p.m. Art Jones has worked in the educational and commercial audiovisual industry for over 25 years. Working as photojournalist for Model Cities, the Amsterdam News, NYC, as a studio photographer, commercial and educational scriptwriter, curriculum designer, university lecturer, and media/public relations consultant. “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story” is one of many spectacular films to be presented in ADIFF Chicago this year between June 21 and 27, 2019.

Other highlights include:

This year’s Centerpiece – presented in collaboration with media sponsor Chicago Crusader is “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” by Cash Michaels. This powerful documentary retraces the violence that led to the false prosecution and convictions of eight Black male students, a white female community organizer, and fiery Civil Rights activist, Rev. Benjamin Chavis, for protesting the racial injustice associated with the troubled desegregation of the New Hanover County Public School System in North Carolina during the late 1960s through 1971;

“The Robeson Effect” by Juney Smith. Actors Danny Glover and Ben Guillory share with the audience the extraordinary story of their 50-year friendship, some of their life’s journey, their artistic journey and their shared admiration of Paul Robeson, which led them to the creation of the Robey Theatre Company in Los Angeles, California;

A Spotlight on the UK Black Experience program travels from the 1981 London with Burning an Illusion by Menelik Sabbaz to contemporary London with No Shade by Clare Anyiam-Osigwe telling stories around music – with Hanging Out: Youth Culture Then and Now by Lorna Holder and Yvonne Deutschman – and the troubles of Black women looking for love in London;

CARIBBEAN PROGRAMS with films from Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti.

Another PAFF favorite: Rattlesnakes by award-winning writer/director Julius Amedume is a Neo Noir psychological thriller about Robert McQueen, a healer ambushed by three masked men who accuse him of sleeping with their wives.

The 17th Annual African Diaspora Film Festival-Chicago is made possible thanks to the generous support of the following institutions: Facets Cinemateque, ArtMattan Productions, the Center for Black Diaspora at DePaul University, The Dusable Heritage Association and media sponsors The Reader and The Chicago Crusader. The African Diaspora International Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization.

Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. For a full schedule and to order advance tickets online please call 773-281-4114 or 212-864-1760 or visit http://www.facets.org or https://nyadiff.org/chicago-2019/. Tickets are $15 for Opening Night, $12 for the Centerpiece and Closing Night, $10 and $8 for students and seniors for general admission for regular screenings and $5 for Facets members. The Festival Pass is $85, Weekend Pass $60, Sat Day and Sun Day Passes: $25. Advance ticket sales are available here: https://nyadiff.org/chicago-2019/.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago.” For book info, editor91210@yahoo.com.

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