Documentary Review: Buffalo Girls [Thailand] 2012

BuffaloGirls Poster MidRes Documentary Review: Buffalo Girls [Thailand] 2012

Buffalo Girls is an amazing documentary about two impoverished 8 year old Muay Thai fighters who earn money through fighting to help their families survive in rural Thailand. The film follows Pet and Stam both in the ring and out, as they make their way along Thailand’s underground child boxing arena. While both girls are great at Muay Thai, their disparity is evident not only physically and in their techniques, but socially, financially and in the way they approach their careers.  I had seen clips of kids fighting in Thailand in the past but they always seemed inexperienced. Not the case with these two little girls who train day and night and love what they do.

What makes the film fascinating, too, is that it becomes clear how even in a third world country like Thailand, a little extra money can make such a huge difference in one’s opportunities and success in life. It really does take money to make money. Because while both are what most people in America might deem “poor,” Stam, whose father is an ex-Muay Thai fighter, has more money behind her than Pet does, which means more trainers, better equipment for training, etc. She’s got her dad and her uncle in her corner, among others, making her look like a baby Thai Mayweather in the ring.

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Buffalo Stam 2 Documentary Review: Buffalo Girls [Thailand] 2012

Pet, is the taller one, with long legs and arms who is lethal from a distance while Stam, the smaller girl, works better up close. With the proper training, Pet would undoubtedly go undefeated with her innate ability and learned skills. Born with a heart condition, her mother had made a deal with “the spirit” to cure her of her ailment and in return she had to shave her head.

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Because Pet doesn’t have the same options that Stam does, it becomes evident that family finances can hinder one’s performance in a sport like this, where you really need to push your limits to succeed. But this doesn’t stop Pet. The girl has a lot of heart and a clear passion for boxing.

Because their family members are also betting on them, the girls are under a lot of pressure to win for obvious reasons. Stam is helping her parents finish building their house and all of Pet’s money goes to help pay the rent for hers. This is where the story gets sad. Because on one hand the girls’ parents are very supportive, but when they lose, well… The cameras only caught random acts of public humiliation and half-threats of disownment. Who knows what really happens behind the scenes?

muay thai young girl Documentary Review: Buffalo Girls [Thailand] 2012

As many know, kick-boxing is a physically demanding sport and while the girls do have their moments where they get to be kids, they are playing adult roles which inevitably cause them to lose out on important aspects of their childhood. Not that they should be pitied, per se, as many children from third world countries are working at this age to support their families and are a lot worse off. But it does get sad, nonetheless, to see girls so young working so hard and facing the amount of pressure that Stam and Pet do.  Yet somehow, throughout it all, they exhibit an amazing sense of joy for the little things in life that only a child who comes from a background like this can truly appreciate. You can catch Buffalo Girls streaming right now on Netflix.

Rating: A+ (Highly recommended)

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