The Beautiful Boxer is the controversial 2003 biopic detailing the helter-skelter life of transgender (‘kathoey’) Muay Thai fighter, Nong Thoom. The film, while winning awards and nominations in Europe, Asia and America raised temperatures in Thailand where censors felt aggrieved by the extreme frontal nudity which made the film popular elsewhere.
Nong Thoom is portrayed by male kick-boxer and Muay Thai pro, Asanee Suwan. It was the shots of Asanee’s genitals which saw the film censored in parts of Thailand and banned altogether in others. Still the film did win several high profile Thai film awards in 2004 including awards for Best Actor and Best Makeup. Elsewhere the movie picked up awards in Torino’s Gay/Lesbian/Transgender movie festival and new director Ekachai Uekrongtham picked up a prestigious Outfest award for Outstanding Emerging Talent.
The Beautiful Boxer deals with the life of Nong Thoom. Nong had always been aware of her gender and her biological complications from a young age and after spending time in a Buddhist monastery, decided to pursue boxing and Muay Thai as a means of paying to support her under privileged parents and get a sex change operation. She was dubbed The Beautiful Boxer as a result of her first fight where she beat and then passionately kissed a much larger opponent.
The Beautiful Boxer continued to rise to fame as a successful lady-boy boxer at the prestigious Lumprini Boxing Stadium in Bangkok. At the epicentre of all things Muay Thai, The Beautiful Boxer went on to become a champion in mid 1998. Having revitalised the Muay Thai scene in Thailand (and across the globe), The Beautiful Boxer announced a shock retirement when she had enough money to release her parents from financial hardship and she finally underwent her reassignment operation in early 1999.
The movie, The Beautiful Boxer, depicts Nong as a strong and often exploited but loved figure of Muay Thai and Thailand’s tourism industry in general. The movie did well in America upon its import release in 2005 and Nong began to reappear in the public eye fighting and winning several exhibition fights against heavier male opponents. Indeed, the speed of The Beautiful Boxer has often been the main reason for her victories as seen in the movie.
The director of The Beautiful Boxer, Ekachai Uekrongtham also came into the limelight as a result of Nong’s story and he is now working on several other high profile Thai movie projects and he runs his own theater company, ACTION.
In summary then, The Beautiful Boxer is based on the real life story of Parinya Charoenphol (Nong Thoom), a Muay Thai boxer who had to have a sex change operation to become a woman. The Beautiful Boxer chronicles her life with scenes from Nong as a young boy who likes to wear lipstick and flowers to gripping fightscenes communicating the exciting life of a Muay Thai kick-boxer. The movie, The Beautiful Boxer, confronts issues of sexuality and gender in the high octane real-life world of Muay Thai. The Beautiful Boxer executes her moves with an expert’s grace and finally faces her own sexuality head-on climaxing in her life-changing sexual realignment operation. Fascinating stuff about makeup and boxing gloves!