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Little Girls Fight To Survive

Little Girls Fight To Survive

A new documentary video that features two young Thai girls that use muay thai fighting to feed their family and pay bills while also trying to live a normal child life in their rural village in Thailand. They are among Thailand’s 30,000 young Thai fighters that fight professionally in Thailand.

Buffalo Girls is a documentary that reveals the lives of two of Thailand’s 30,000 children boxers. The movie opens up with two barefoot 8-year old girl boxers sweating, punches, kicking, and taking pain while on-lookers cheer on at lit-up stadium. These fighters bring in large sums, that encourage the fighters to continue on.

Their fists may seem small, but their punches, elbows, and kicks come in a fury as they fight to win the prize and honor. Their families wager on the outcome and depend on their children’s income. The documentary looks into this life of children boxers. Some call it exploitation, while others claim it to be a economic necessity. Many of the first viewers response is horror as they are awaken to a existence of little girls fighting for money. The video follows them from their muay thai gym where they train to their fights where they give it all they have.

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Children Muay Thai Boxers

The girls featured in the video are Stam and Pet. They are one of the many young fighters who fight professionally in Muay Thai child boxing tournaments in Thailand. Their faces beam with youthful innocence, and like other youths around the world laugh and play without a care in the world despite their hard life in their rural village.

Background on Buffalo Girls

The director of the movie stumbled upon a child boxing match featuring Stam in Chonburi province in 2006. He was on his first trip to Thailand, researching a documentary about prisons. Originally he assumed the girls were boxing for fun, but through an interpreter, Stam told him she was in it for money.

”I was blown away,” Kellstein says. ”I couldn’t really get why kids would do that.”

After raising money for Buffalo Girls in the US, he returned to Thailand in early 2007, and shot fights and interviews over three years. It took a further three years to translate and edit the film.

Over time, he won the trust of the girls’ parents. While Kellstein didn’t pay them, they now have a 10 per cent stake in the film.

”I originally thought I’d make a film that would start some action to maybe help stop the fighting because that’s just my knee-jerk Western reaction on what to do. But after all my time there and after seeing how empowering it is for the kids, I think just having a film that sparked cultural dialogue and cultural understanding is important. I don’t think it needs to be a means to an end any further than that.”

About Buffalo Girls Documententary

In the film, Stam and Pet’s parents extol boxing as a safe and desirable form of income.


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Stam: Muay Thai Girl Fighter

In the film, Stam and Pet’s parents extol boxing as a safe and desirable form of income. The money that Stam is able to generate from her fights goes to pay off her family’s big new house and also for medical expenses after her father broke his leg.

Stam’s mother watches her daughter spar against adult male relatives. She doesn’t think Stam will get hurt:

”Well, sometimes mistakes happen, but if she’s well trained her ab muscles can take it.”


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Pet: Muay Thai Gril Fighter

Pet’s parents reveal in an interview that Pet has heart disease and her head is shaved as an offering to the spirits to ward off illness.

Review of Buffalo Girls

Kellstein says the film will be confronting for Western audiences, but points out that, without boxing, Pet and Stam couldn’t afford to go to school.

Buffalo Girls Screenshots

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After watching 300 bouts and interviewing parents, children, referees, spectators and bookmakers, Kellstein found he couldn’t condemn the sport. Kellstein says the injuries he saw in boxing didn’t exceed a little league football game.

”Is it justifiable what they do? I’m saying for them personally it is justifiable because it’s what they need to do. What’s not justifiable is that the world we live in has such huge economic disparity that people are forced to take those kinds of measures.”

But would parents in the US or Australia send their kids into the boxing ring to fund a new house?

”I do know lots of kids who live their parents’ dreams through gymnastics, dance or Olympic training, kids who are in the movie business. Culturally, because Muay Thai boxing is such a part of Thai life, they don’t see it as so odd to be fighting, it doesn’t have the same connotations.”

He hopes Buffalo Girls illustrates ”that people in different cultures in different economic circumstances also have dreams and aspirations and needs and they will do whatever it takes to get there.

Buffalo Girls begins screening on Monday at the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival in Melbourne at 6:30pm followed by a Q&A session with US director Todd Kellstein.
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Buffalo Girls Muay Thai Documentary

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