Sundance isn’t all Park City has to offer this week. Slamdance is in full force from Jan. 20-26. Tucked away in the Treasure Mountain Inn, Slamdance is right at home on Main Street, Park City. And they’re indie cred is still very much intact where Sundance’s might lack.
Todd Kellstein’s Buffalo Girls premiered on Sunday, January 23rdat evening showing. The documentary takes its audience to rural Thailand. Buffalo Girls is an incredible story that forces the audience to look beyond the initial shock of the story to a deeper economic problem. However, the documentary tends to get too caught up in the story and doesn’t give enough background information for its full power to sink in.
Buffalo Girls follows two eight-year-old girls, Pet and Stam, as they compete for the Muay Thai championship. Muay Thai is a traditional form of combat that has been practiced for roughly 700 years. To westernize it, Muay Thai is a lot like boxing. These tiny girls train and work to be the best in their divisions, but they fight without any protective gear while fully-grown adults watch and bet on the outcome.
I admit, at the beginning of the movie, I was disgusted. As much as I loved Hit Girl, the 10-year-old assassin the comic series Kick-Ass, seeing these two little girls duke it out in the real world was nowhere near ok. I was angry at the girls’ parents for letting them fight to support their families. An eight-year-old shouldn’t have to worry about that. However, during the question and answer period with the director, I stopped being disgusted and started being angry.
It turns out both sets of parents had jobs. In fact, they even had multiple jobs. Stam’s parents were farmers who also ran a stand at the marketplace, but they couldn’t provide for their family. One night of Stam’s boxing could bring home as much as half her family’s monthly rent. The economic situation of Stam’s family wasn’t because the parents weren’t trying to provide, it was because the money they were making just wasn’t enough.
These girls were able to pay their own school fees. They helped their families build houses. Pet and Stam were able to do all of this because of boxing, but they’re parents couldn’t do these things alone because of the economic injustices that sweep the world.
That economic injustice is the most powerful message of this movie, but it wasn’t clarified during the documentary. It took the question and answer time to understand what I should really be mad about. It’s a pity because Buffalo Girls has the potential to move people to action. It just needs a little more background before it gets caught up in emotion.