Review: Buffalo Girls at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival
We’re into the thick of blockbuster movie season but that doesn’t mean explosions, crappy one-liners, burly heroes, foxy heroines and gross-out comedies is all that’s on offer (not that any of those options are necessarily bad). But if you’re like me and once in a while want to see a film that won’t gross a profit of 9 figures, and that will leave you thinking (if not talking) about the movie for the week to come, there are still some opportunities to see some great alternative films this winter. This week look no further than the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival.
Last night Rhys and I went to see their opening night film Buffalo Girls, a documentary about child muay thai fighting in Thailand. The film managed to balance a fine line between neither condemning nor celebrating the fighting because, as it stands now, it can be an important source of income for poverty stricken families, but it is also exploitative to put these young girls in the ring to beat the crap out of each other for the entertainment and profit (or loss depending on which way they bet) of the adults who are shouting from the sidelines.
I felt really challenged by the film to not just build an overwhelming sense of pathos for one child fighter because the story followed two girls, Stam and Pet, from two different backgrounds, with two different situations, who at different points in the film were each other’s opponents in the ring. The traditional hollywood ‘root for the underdog’ narrative we see in the likes of Rocky & The Fighter is totally flipped on its head here, where I found myself consciously having to try to not support one girl or the other when they were fighting. I think challenging the audience in this way was a very deliberate choice by the director who opened the film with a montage of fighting with an intense backing track, which really exemplified the typical hollywood fight sequence and opposed the footage of two girls, one aged 8 and the other 10, in an aggressive struggle to try and harm each other.