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Thrilla in Manila (2008)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary | Sport  -  11 November 2008 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 574 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 7 critic

On October 1, 1975, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was in the ring with his arch rival Joe Frazier for the third time. This fight in the Philippines, which has been ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marvis Frazier ...
Thomas Hauser ...
Himself (archive footage)
Ronnie Nathanielz ...
Ferdie Pacheco ...
Ferdinand Marcos ...
Himself (archive footage)
Imelda Marcos ...
David Wolf ...
Himself - Frazier's Camp
Butch Lewis ...
Buster Mathis ...
Himself (archive footage)
Stanley R. Hochman ...
Himself - Philadelphia Inquirer
Sunni Khalid ...
Himself (archive footage)
Michael Parkinson ...
Himself (archive footage)


On October 1, 1975, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was in the ring with his arch rival Joe Frazier for the third time. This fight in the Philippines, which has been nicknamed "Thrilla in Manila," is considered one of the most dramatic boxing matches in history - in the words of the voice-over, "They hated each other." With the help of archive material and eyewitness accounts (including Imelda Marcos), this documentary not only reconstructs the match, but shows us what was happening behind the scenes as well. Written by International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

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Documentary | Sport

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Release Date:

11 November 2008 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Frazier vastaan Ali  »

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Featured in De wereld draait door: Episode #5.59 (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

An engaging and honest documentary that will engage even non-boxing fans despite a slight niggle of being presented from one side
26 December 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I loved the documentary When We Were Kings when it came out but it seems that director John Dower didn't like the fact that Ali was rather elevated in that film in the way that he has been for most of the time since his boxing career ended. Certainly for me and most of my generation, Ali is the epitome of the fast-talking sports star, a true character who produced some great fights and this film confirms some of that while also throwing a slightly harsher light on him. It does this by looking specifically at the relationship between Ali and Joe Frazier, the latter of whom still lives in a room behind his gym in a rundown area of Philadelphia.

The similarities in style between this film and We Were Kings (WWWK) are mostly cosmetic things and are mostly good things but the main difference is in the content. The first film focused on the fight lifting up the black community and having such a cultural impact. However this film focuses more on the negative side of Ali's trash talking and the products of this – a brutal fight and buckets of acrimony. The structure of the film builds to the retelling of the fight in the same way as WWWK by focusing on the social consequence and specifics of the build up before getting to a talk-through of the actual fight itself. Here it does a good job of showing the significance of what Ali was saying – attacking Frazier's "blackness", calling him racial names and so on. When I say a good job I mean that it helps the modern viewer understand the impact of his words – specifically the historical context in which these things were said.

I found this fascinating and the only slight downside is that there is nobody really to speak on behalf of the Ali camp and you can tell that the film has been put together with a certain amount of seeking to redress the balance and give a voice to Frazier. With that it mind, and the clear presentation of the "facts", it is hard not to feel for Frazier, who still to this day has a fighter's heart but also a real bitter streak. This is perhaps not particularly palatable to see but the film leaves it there for us to see nonetheless, as it should. The overall presentation is good, with the fight footage well blended with talking heads and plenty of good soundtrack selections. I thought it was a very good idea to have people watching the fight during the film – specifically Frazier himself – as this did produce some interesting moments.

WWWK is the accessible boxing documentary that everyone knows about but this film is equally as good, even if the rather bitter subject matter is not as fun and uplifting as that film. The structure and presentation is good and the makers present a bitter and tense conflict in a way that is engaging and sympathetic. Nobody really comes out of it well but so be it. Could have done with a little more from the Ali camp during the film but this is a minor niggle and it engages easily.

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