Words: Giulia Lombardo
Between fiction and reality, ‘One Night in Miami’ (a narrative by Regina King and a screenplay by Kemp Powers) tells the story of one great night in 1964, spent between four of the most important and fundamental African-American personalities of the 60s: Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. These were four great talents that – on a particular night – found themselves debating on the atrocious injustices faced by the black people of that time.
Boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), who soon changed his name to Muhammad Ali, has just won over the heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Convention Hall in Miami and wants to celebrate with three of his friends, activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), soul singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and American footballer Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). But the night has great surprises in store and the festivities will leave room for a long discussion on how each of them, thanks to their fame, fights in their own way for civil rights.
Accompanied by a soundtrack from Spike Lee’s score legend Terence Blanchard, the film is enriched by various interpretations by Odom Jr. of some Sam Cooke classics: from ‘You Send Me’ to ‘Chain Gang’ up to an inspiring version of ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, a real anthem of the African-American civil rights movement.
It’s a fictional tale based on the friendship of these four formidable individuals. Some vintage photographs show the presence of Malcolm X, with his camera, during the celebrations for Cassius Clay’s victory of 1964. Many ideas were built on the initial play ‘One Night In Miami’, and many other ideas were taken by Kemp Powers from the biographies of the protagonists, sewing together a hypothetical conversation in which the four characters take an overview of the situation of the time and discuss how to carry on the struggles within the civil rights movement of African-Americans, to defeat racial and religious injustices to the detriment of their own community.
No one knows what these four friends really said to each other; the dialogues that alternate between harsh, fraternal, sincere, poetic tones, are the result of the fantasy of Kemp Powers. But everyone knows how each of these four figures has contributed to the achievements made when it comes to human rights. The construction of the characters and the dialogues that unite friendship and important themes strike the heart, allowing a vision that enriches the audience.