One Night In Miami reflects on continuing fight for racial equality in the US

It would be an understatement to say that 2020 proved challenging for cinema.

With box office takings for the UK and Ireland reported to be down by three quarters compared to the year before, there appears no immediate end in sight at least for the first few months of this year.

We should be in the midst of Oscar and BAFTAs buzz, the ceremonies usually set for February. But the global Pandemic has delayed both to April and even now it is unclear what shape the film world's most prestigious awards events will take.

But a packed red carpet looks a distant memory, which is a shame as the team behind One Night In Miami would most certainly be there on the night.

The film, which will be released globally on Amazon Prime on Friday 15 January, is based on the acclaimed stage play by Kemp Powers, and he has also adapted it for Regina King’s first outing as a feature film director.

It tells the story, based on actual events, of an encounter in a motel room on the night the then Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World.Powers imagines a conversation between Clay, who is about to convert to Islam and become Muhammad Ali, the civil rights leader Malcolm X, American football legend Jim Brown, and soul singer Sam Cooke.  The subject is race and the challenges of being black in 1960s America at the height of the civil rights movement. For Oscar winning actress and director Regina King, even the disruption the pandemic caused to the TV and film industries, could not stop her putting One Night out now.  When filming began again in LA last year, albeit for small scale commercials, King was determined to complete the remaining two scenes of her film that had been halted by the pandemic. Using smaller crews, she got her film done, and ready for release. 

King recognised the resonance her film's subject had with the US today; racial inequality is still a matter for protest; the anger that exploded after the death of George Floyd, making the conversation between her four protagonists in the film all the more urgent.

We knew this was going to be a film for now she explained to me.  She is also grateful that she has made a film with four black men in one room, each an icon in his own way, engaged in deep conversation about how to effect change in America, either via activism or by trying to change it from within. She has made a film, says King, that the men in her family will recognise themselves in. So are we getting there in terms of diversity in Hollywood I ask? Last year One Night In Miami was the first film directed by an African American woman ever to screen at the Venice film festival.  Could she see herself as a black female director, getting an Oscar nomination? That adds a level of anxiety she says, some have talked in the past about people being a shoo-in for a nomination and it hasn’t happened. 

King just wants people to see the film, and more importantly hear what the characters on screen are saying about racial inequality in the 60s, and how it sadly reflects on a journey that continues today.