Take four black men, revered in their chosen fields, and put them together for one night.
That is the simple basis for Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night In Miami. But the film is about more than the four men in a hotel room. It is about their place in a segregated United States.
The film follows Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X as they meet to congratulate Clay on his win over Sonny Liston. It is February 1964, and the four friends’ conversation moves from friendly banter to the tough issues: racism, fame, and the Black Community.
Malcolm calls Cooke, “a monkey dancing for an organ grinder,” because he sings before mainly white audiences. He argues that Cooke should be using his voice “for the cause” of black liberation.
Cooke responds that his success as a black businessman is liberating because he is boosting the careers and incomes of other black artists.
This conversation is fictional, but the meeting between the four men did occur.
Kemp Powers, who wrote the film’s screenplay based on his stage place, read about the meeting in the book, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties.
He said in an interview, “It was like a tossed-out paragraph and it’s one of those things where you stop and go back and go, wait, what?”
Powers continued, “Honestly, the fight between Malcolm and Sam, that’s my internal monologue going on inside my own brain on a regular basis. That’s why if we’re successful, people shouldn’t come away feeling one person is particularly right or wrong because the answer is who is right or wrong is situational.”
“The reality of it is, for a movement to really bring about change, you need some Malcolm Xs and some Sam Cookes.”
One Night in Miami is available on Amazon Prime.
SOURCES: BLACKFILM.COM, THEGUARDIAN.COM, INSIDER.COM, TIFF.NET