March 14, 2014
This documentary is about the life and career of Manny Pacquiao, probably the most famous Filipino celebrity the world over now. While we in the Philippines idolize him as our "National Fist," it would be very interesting to hear what other peoples have to say about him.
The film was narrated by Liam Neeson. It starts with Manny Pacquiao contemplating on why he boxes. Pacquiao mostly narrates his story in Filipino (with English subtitles). We learn that he joined fishermen when he was a poor boy growing up in Sarangani province. He credited that experience for developing his physical strength. From there, we will meet various people who have influenced his life and career.
Manny's mother Dionisia was restrained and sincere when she talked about his childhood. Too bad that would only be her only part in the film. His wife Jinkee had more participation, talking about their personal life. There was an obvious hesitation in some parts when she was going to say something negative, but that was understandable. Too bad there was no interview with his kids. It would have been good to know how he was as a father.
The bulk of this documentary will of course be about his boxing career. We will meet his uncle Sardo Mejia who taught 12 year old Manny about boxing. His childhood friend Buboy Fernandez was trained by Manny to be his assistant trainer. We will go inside Wildcard Gym in L.A. We get to learn more about Freddie Roach, his own career, how they met and their present relationship. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and innovative conditioning coach Alex Ariza are also featured prominently. Former managers Rod Nazario and Michael Koncz were not so favorably mentioned.
We get to witness the best scenes from Pacquiao's most memorable fights. There was that 1995 match with a certain Rossel, Manny's first significant win that started him on his winning path. There was that match vs. Hussein in 2000, the first actual match Jinkee watched live, and she was six months pregnant then. His first match in the US, vs. Ledwaba, which Manny convincingly won despite being a longshot.
There were highlights of his matches with Barrera, Morales, Solis, Diaz, Marquez, dela Joya, Hatton (that chilling knockout), Cotto, Margarito (that unprecedented eighth world title), and Bradley (that controversial loss by decision). There was of course mention of the dream match which may never be, that elusive one vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
We will also see Manny's forays into the entertainment scene. There were movies like "Wapak-Man" and "Anak ng Kumander", which did not exactly get good reviews nor good box office. There was his singing "Imagine" on TV with Will Ferrell. We see inside footage of Manny recording "Sometimes When We Touch" in Capitol Records, with no less than Dan Hill himself coaching him (which I found so funny). There was also a quick montage of his multiple product endorsements locally and abroad, many of which we have not seen before.
We will see his career in politics as congressman of the lone district of Sarangani. There were even predictions posed about a possible presidency. There was also footage from a prayer meeting where Manny was the motivational speaker. There were thoughts shared about how these other activities were affecting his boxing career.
The celebrities they interviewed were also interesting, from Mark Wahlberg to Imelda Marcos! It was heartening to hear testimonies of Manny's greatness from foreign boxing experts, how he is mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali. It was not all roses and plaudits though, as his early financial problems (not yet the tax woes) and many vices were also brought up.
One of the directors is Leon Gast who won an Oscar in 1996 directing another documentary about boxing "When We Were Kings." That film was about the iconic Ali-Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" match. The other director is a Fil-American Ryan Moore. This is Moore's first commercial film project. It must have been difficult to wade through all the footage and media appearances, choose the best clips and edit it together into a feature-length documentary such as this one. The first part about Pacquiao's rise to fame was excellent, very inspiring and touching. There were parts in the second half which tended to lose focus somewhat. But overall it had a very good handle on its multi-faceted and complex subject.
I think "Manny" succeeds in its aim to craft a fair character study of a man who came from nothing, and pushed himself to achieve great things for himself and his whole country. This is a very well-made documentary feature, unexpectedly an emotional film which will move many to tears. 8/10.