What A Wonderful World It Would Be
It´s 1964 and a star is born: Twenty-Two year old Cassius Clay wins World Heavy Weight Champignonship - and is not allowed to celebrate in public, because Floriday does not allow "negroes" in most of the bars and restaurants. That is why the man who will soon call himself Muhammad Ali meets his close friends, acitvist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Robinson at a motel room in the black quarters of the city.
From the rooftop they will later watch the fireworks, probably launched in Clay´s honour.
This is Regina ("Beale Streets") King´s first movie as a director and she went for a stage play that focused on one night when four men, all legends in their own field, gathered in this informal summt - or at least this is how it could have been.
What they discuss, even fight about, is religion (would Cassius Clay really want to renounce alcohol and "grandma´s perfect chop sticks" to become a spokesperson for the Muslim community the way Malcolm X wants him to?), sports (will Jim Robinson leave his football career for the movies?) and culture. As Sam Cooke had proved black people can make a career if only they obey the rules.
It is that Sam Cooke, brilliantly played by Leslie Odom Jr. who is the most interesting character in the whole movie.
As much as he is aware of the ongoing struggle of his black community he is proud to have conquered the lifestyle of white people with his music - as a singer he is still struggling in white nightclubs, but being played on the radio and as a producer he has achieved a mansion in the black part of Beverly Hills ("We own the better part anyway!"), drives a sports car and earns more money than any other of the guys.
His friend and admirer Malcolm X wants him to use his popularity to get out there and street-fight for the black cause, and as Cooke defends his way of life as a personal revenge, the acitivst plays Bob Dylan´s "Blowin´ In The Wind", asking why a young white man has the lyrics for their fight and not their biggest pop star.
Sam Cooke will actually write his first protest that very year, but the song will come out only after his death - and not, as the movie suggests, at a national Late Night Show with Johnny Carson.
Because Cooke will be shot only months after that "Night In Miami", by a Motel Concierge in his beloved Los Angeles. It seems that he went for help after a hooker mugged him in one of the rooms, but the woman claimed do be afraid of him and killed him.
Defending her white self against an intruding black man let her trial end with an acquittal.
Watch the movie to get in touch with those guys who tried to lead the way into the light and out of America´s darkest hours.
All pictures courtesy of Amazon Prime.