Les Poings de la Fierté. Fists of Pride 2012
Distributed by National Film Board of Canada, 1123 Broadway, Suite 307, New York, NY 10010; 800-542-2164
Produced by Isabelle Fortier for Aviva Productions
Directed by Hélène Choquette
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
Asia, Human Trafficking, Sports
Date Entered: 09/09/2014Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH
Situated on the border with Myanmar, the city of Mae Sot, Thailand is home to a large population of more than 200,000 Burmese refugees, including about 50,000 children. Allegedly, the local police collude with business and organized crime to support trafficking in Burmese slave labor. About 100 Burmese children are sold in Thailand each month. One means of avoiding slave trafficking for Burmese boys with kickboxing potential, those who are willing to submit to rigorous training, is to ally themselves with Thai boxing coaches who will train the boys to become prize fighters. Those who have the physical attributes, stamina, and attitude, those who can be coached, can earn their keep in the boxing ring, sometimes earning enough to obtain an education, and rarely, rising to the professional kickboxing circuit in Thailand. For the rare few who find success, the coaches can obtain papers enabling the Burmese refugees to leave Mae Sot.
The film follows four Karen minority Burmese children as they train for their first prize fight, expecting to be pitted against Thai fighters during the Water Festival, an annual celebration for the Thai and Burmese of Mae Sot. Coaches, boxing trainees and their family members are interviewed to provide personal perspectives on training for prize fighting. Coaches are looking for talent since they make their livings from prize moneys earned by their boxers. Younger boxers are looking to earn money to ease the lives of their families. Successful older boxers are looking to earn enough to gain access to education, something unavailable to 75 percent of refugee children. With everything on the line, the novice boxers fight with desperation during their Water Festival bouts.
This film is recommended for audiences with an interest in the status of refugee populations worldwide, particularly in South Asia. Prospects for repatriation of Burmese refugees are not good according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as resources for maintaining Thai refugee camps are scarce and donor and agency resources are increasingly being directed to south-eastern Myanmar. This film highlights the ongoing problems for Burmese refugees in Thailand and the meager hopes that a small subset of that refugee population can place in aspiring to become professionals in the martial arts.