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By Maloney L. Samaco

06 Apr 2009

“Thriller in Manila” is an entry in the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. The film is a work of John Dower, its director and screenwriter from the United Kingdom. The festival takes place annually in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah, as well as the Sundance Resort.

The festival includes competitive categories for American and international dramatic and documentary films, including feature-length films and short films, and a group of non-competitive showcase sections. Year 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival.

Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fought three times in their illustrious boxing career. But it was their third and final encounter that fortified their rivalry as one of boxing history's greatest fight. The early and middle parts of the fight were close, but in the later rounds things steadily went Ali's way in the scoring.

The final match up between Ali and Frazier was ultimately damaging to the well being of both fighters. The first fight in 1971 between these two pugilists went fifteen rounds and the second fight in 1974 lasted 12 rounds, which were both similarly brutal on the protagonists.

By the late rounds, the fight had become more vicious with both fighters on the verge of breakdown due to exhaustion. Much pride was at stake on the fight that it became more important than life and death. It was not merely a fight for a championship belt; it was considered a war of wills.

“Thriller in Manila” dramatically conveys both the bottom line of this rivalry as well as the complicated racial issues of the time. Dower tells the story from Frazier’s viewpoint, clearly portraying him not only a silent brave man but a counterpoint to Ali’s charisma.

Though Ali famously mocked all his opponents, Dower disagreed that his verbal taunting of Frazier was particularly nasty, racially insulting, and a betrayal of their onetime camaraderie. “Thriller in Manila” illustrates a legendary rivalry captivated by a great sporting episode enthralled by a great story.

Frazier had never forgiven Ali for the variety of verbal abuse Ali had thrown at him preceding their first fight. Ali called Frazier an "ugly dumb gorilla," scoffing him as a mumbling physical specimen without intelligence, as well as an "Uncle Tom" and a "White Man's Champion."

Ali tried to promote further awareness in the fight by ridiculing Frazier at every occasion, most notoriously by striking a rubber gorilla meant to symbolize Frazier during a press conference while shouting: "It's gonna be a chilla, and a killa, and a thrilla, when I get the Gorilla in Manila."

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