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USA, 2013, 82 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Asian, Coming of Age, Documentary, Sports
Programs: Documentary, Spotlight on ColoradoLanguage: Thai, English English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Phil Brown, Tate Zandstra
Producer: Grant Southwick, Diego RodriguezEditor: Phil BrownScreenwriter: Tate ZandstraCinematographer: Tate Zandstra
A compelling mix of graphic violence and innocence rescued, this documentary focuses on Jawee, a retired Thai soldier who has fostered numerous orphan boys to train them in the Muay Thai style of boxing. It’s an ancient sport that originated in battlefield contests and warrior training, and it’s tied to a Chinese invasion of Thailand a millennium ago and the Burmese conquest of Thailand in the 1700s. Its most ardent practitioners hail from the very hills into which the Thais were driven during those incursions. The boys come from extreme poverty and through the training and fights arranged by Jawee get a chance to earn money. But they also run the risk of serious injury and irrevocable damage to their bodies. When they’re young, the boys wear boxing gloves and the sport might be mistaken for kickboxing. But the most popular forms of Muay Thai are called “torn cloth,” because the gloves come off and the boxers’ hands are wrapped only in lengths of fabric. Even successful fighters retire by their 30s and, if they’re lucky, turn to teaching the next generation of fighters.
Jawee and his wife, Baneung, bestow on the orphans the compassion of shelter, regular meals, and a highly structured life that includes schooling, fight training, and chores to maintain the training camp. The young men revere their master, hoping to follow in his soldierly footsteps. They are happy to trade the random and cruel violence of the streets for a better life in the boxing ring.
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