Archive of films Thriller in Manila / Thriller in Manila

United Kingdom
2008, 90 min

Section: Documentary Films - Competition
Year: 2009

Gripping reconstruction of one of the most dramatic sporting events of all time, the 1975 rematch between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the heavyweight boxing title. Archive footage and testimonies from those who witnessed the "fight to the death” illustrate not only the drama in the ring, but also US sociopolitical realities of the 1960s and 1970s.


Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are rightfully ranked among the greatest boxers of all time. Once united by friendship, they became bitter antagonists as they vied for the heavyweight championship of the world on three occasions. The final meeting between these two boxing giants took place in the Philippine capital in October 1975. Hailed as the "Thrilla in Manila,” the match went down in history as the most dramatic sporting event of the 20th century. Dower’s gripping reconstruction takes a closer look at the match and the events that preceded it – from Frazier’s corner of the ring. Even after 30 years, the aging owner of a rundown Philadelphia gym has not forgotten the bitter moments of verbal humiliation and racial slurs which his former friend Ali, an adherent of the Nation of Islam, brought to the encounter. Archive footage and the testimonies of those who witnessed the "fight to the death” illustrate not only the drama in the ring, but also US sociopolitical realities of the 1960s and 1970s.

About the director

John Dower would probably never have had a film career if the horse Bobbyjo hadn’t won Liverpool’s famed Grand National steeplechase ten years ago. Out of the winnings, Dower was able to buy himself a digital camera, which he used to shoot his debut When Will I Be Famous? (2000).  The young documentary filmmaker then shot a series of renowned movies for Channel 4, including Porn in the UK, John’s Gone to Iceland, and the cult hit Sneaker Freaks. In 2003 he made his first feature-length documentary, Live Forever, about the rise and fall of Britpop, working with renowned producer John Battsek. Another film, Once in a Lifetime, concerns the once-celebrated New York Cosmos soccer team.


Darlow Smithson Productions
Highgate Studios, 53 - 79 Highgate Road, NW5 1TL, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 482 7027
Fax: +44 207 482 7039

IMG Media
Burlington Lane, McCormack House, W4 2TH, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 233 5300

About the film

Color, HD CAM

Section: Documentary Films - Competition
Director: John Dower
Screenplay: John Dower
Dir. of Photography: Stephen Standen
Music: Ben Bartlett
Editor: Nicholas Packer, Kate Spankie
Producer: John Dower
Production: Darlow Smithson Productions
Contact: Darlow Smithson Productions, IMG Media

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