Beautiful Boxer: Based on a True Story
This was the official US website for the movie, Beautiful Boxer, based on the true story of Thailand's famed transgender kickboxer, Nong Toom. Believing he's a girl trapped in a boy's body since childhood, Parinya Charoenphol sets out to master the most masculine and lethal sport of Thai boxing to earn a living and to achieve his ultimate goal of total femininity. Beautiful Boxer is a poignant action drama that punches straight into the heart and mind of a boy who fights like a man and becomes a woman.
Content is from the site's 2004 archived pages as well as from other sources.
Beautiful Boxer (2003) - Movie Trailer
ciwciwdotcom / Published on Apr 21, 2008
Rising even higher than the greatest expectations engendered by the International Press when it became a favorite of the film festivals, BEAUTIFUL BOXER is one of the more poetic, sensitive, luxuriously vivid and colorful films to come out of Thailand - and that is saying a lot, given the extravagant epics that yearly grow in popularity. This work of art is simply stunning in content, in direction, in acting, and in heartfelt simplicity of message. This is a great one! Writer/director Ekachai Uekrongtham based his first film on the true story of Parinaya Charoemphol AKA Nong Toom, a famous Thai athlete Muay Thai boxer (better known as 'kick boxer' - a demanding, dangerous sport) who entered the world of Muay Thai to garner enough money to help his family and pay for his ultimate sex-change surgery. A tough story to offer general audiences, perhaps, but Ekachai Uekrongtham presents this edgy biography with such cinematic finesse and care that it becomes a film that should appeal to a very wide audience. And much of that success is due to the towering performance by Asanee Suwan in his acting debut: Suwan is in life a professional kick boxer who won the title role after extensive auditions by many practitioners of Muay Thai.
BEAUTIFUL BOXER takes us through the life of Nong Toom, his childhood in a family of loving accepting parents who respect his love of beauty and things feminine, his brief period of being a monk who must leave the monastery because of his inclinations, through his introduction to makeup and play-acting women's roles in the Thai theaters, his ridicule as being more girl than boy (a fact that results in his parents' incarceration!), and his devoted friendship with a girl who supports his desire for femininity and a young man who stands up for him in the boys' camp for learning sports. Gradually Nong Toom realizes that the only way he can make enough money to achieve a sex change operation is to become a successful kick boxer and he aligns himself with a trainer Pi Chart (Sorapong Chatree) and with much commitment and practice becomes Thailand's most famous Muay Thai. His self-respect is further established when he openly wears makeup in the boxing ring, causing many to believe his act is a gimmick and not the manifestation of his true transsexualism. He fights the toughest opponents and wins consistently until he at last arrives in Toyko for the 'big purse' of fighting female wrestler Kyoko Inoue (who plays herself). With the money from the fight he is able to have his surgery and becomes the famous actress and model now living in Bangkok.
Under less sensitive eyes and minds this story could have become audacious, but instead the film elects to be sensitive to the transsexual conviction that Nong Toom is a woman trapped in a man's body, and it is the journey of self acceptance and personal victory that makes the story so deeply touching. Asanee Suwan, as a fine athlete, does all of his own fighting in the film and it is more choreography than brutality. He is amazing to watch and coupled with the fact that he is so wholly convincing in his fine acting that he makes this young transsexual utterly credible in movement, emotional density, and purity of vision is an extraordinary achievement.
Yes, the film has a few flaws of editing and other minor aspects, but the overwhelming power of the story more than compensates for those 'first film' learning curves. Highly recommended for ALL audiences, especially for those who fear there will be gratuitous physical scenes that might offend. There are none!
"I was hesitant to make a film about Nong Toom's life at first. I'd heard of her and was intrigued by her story. To me, she's a walking paradox: a lethal kickboxer who fights like a man but dreams of becoming a woman. The conflicts within such a young person must have been extraordinary. There's certainly a fertile ground there for a great deal of dramatic exploration. But I was not sure if I'd be able to find an emotional anchor in her controversial story for myself, for the audience.
My first meeting with Nong Toom took place not long after she's had her sex change operation. Admittedly, I went to that meeting with some pre-conceived ideas about who she is, the boy she was and the man she used to be. She surprised me.
So here it is… a story of a human being who goes on an emotional journey to try to match his heart with his body. Masculinity vs. Femininity. Heart vs. Head. Dream vs. Reality. Fighting vs. Living." --Ekachai Uekrongtham
Director & Producer
Thai-born Ekachai Uekrongtham is an award-winning theatre director and founding artistic director of ACTION Theatre, a Singapore-based professional theatre company. Best known for conceptualizing, directing and producing Chang & Eng,
the acclaimed stage musical based upon the true story of the original Siamese Twins, Ekachai has directed and produced numerous productions of plays and musicals in Singapore, China, America, Malaysia and Thailand. These include Corporate Animals - The Musical, Ka-Ra-you-OK?, Viva Viagra!, Autumn Tomyam, Mail Order Brides & Other Oriental Takeaways and Confessions of Three Unmarried Women. He has also directed Asian premiere productions of Margaret Edson's Wit, Craig Lucas' Prelude to a Kiss and A.R. Gurney's Love Letters.
A recipient of the Singapore Youth Award and the Culture Award presented by the JCCI Foundation in Singapore, Ekachai was named one of the 20 Leaders of the New Millennium for Society & Culture by Asiaweek. He has also headed the Creative & Development Unit at GMM Pictures Thailand, and the Singapore headquarter of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, international producer of Les Mis?rables and Miss Saigon. Beautiful Boxer is Ekachai's feature film debut.
Based on the true story of Thailand's famed transgender kickboxer, Beautiful Boxer is a poignant action drama that punches straight into the heart and mind of a boy who fights like a man so he can become a woman.
Believing he's a girl trapped in a boy's body since childhood, Parinya Charoenphol (affectionately known as Nong Toom in Thailand) sets out to master the most masculine and lethal sport of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) to earn a living and to achieve his ultimate goal of total femininity. Touching, funny and packed with breathtaking Thai kickboxing sequences, Beautiful Boxer traces Nong Toom's childhood, teenage life as a traveling monk and grueling days in boxing camps. Shot in 9 provinces across Thailand and in Tokyo, the film also features a series of explosive matches where Nong Toom knocks out most of his opponents in Thailand and Japan.
Directed and produced by Ekachai Uekrongtham, the film stars Asanee Suwan, a real-life kickboxing champ as Nong Toom. The role earned him the 2004 Supannahongsa Award (Thailand's equivalent to the Oscar) for Best Actor. Beautiful Boxer also features compelling performances by Thailand's award-winning actor Sorapong Chatree in the role of Nong Toom's coach and former Miss Thailand
Orn-Anong Panyawong as Nong Toom's mother.
Kyoko Inoue, one of Japan's top female wrestlers plays herself in the film. She has fought with Nong Toom in real life back in 1988. That historical match was reenacted for the film in a dramatic sequence shot at Toyko Dome. Nearly all of Nong Toom's opponents in the film are also professional kickboxers in real life.
Beautiful Boxer has been officially selected for the Panorama Section of the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival. It’s the only Thai film in the 2004 Panorama.
Beautiful Boxer is based upon the true story of
Parinya Charoenphol (Nong Toom)
seen here from then (12-year-old kickboxer)
until now (21-year-old actress/model).
He is now a she. In real life, Nong Toom's dream has come true after undergoing a sex-change operation in 1999. Now a model and actress based in Bangkok, Nong Toom can no longer fight in the ring. Women are not allowed in professional boxing rings for men in Thailand.
Born into a poor family of nomads, Nong Toom spent his childhood traveling around the country with his family before settling down in Chiangmai province in the Northern part of Thailand. Prior to his big match in Bangkok in February 1998, he'd won 20 out of 22 matches in many provinces. He's feared by his opponents for his trademark swooping kicks, flying elbows and stinging uppercuts. His deadly prowess in the ring made it hard for the public to understand his ambition of becoming a woman.
Undoubtedly one of Thailand's best known kickboxers, Nong Toom is admired by many for his courage and despised by others who accused him of tarnishing the masculine image of Thai kickboxing.
Real-life Nong Toom (left) and reel-life Nong Toom (right) bear some uncanny similarities in their background. Both grew up in Chiangmai province and started boxing at the age of 12 to help earn money for their family. They were also born just about a year apart under the same Gemini sign.
Beautiful Boxer wins GRAND PRIX in Brussels
Beautiful Boxer was named winner of The Grand Prix 2004 Award on Sunday 7 November in the Capital of Europe.
Said Marc Lobet, President of the International Jury at the Award Ceremony held at the Centre Culturel Jacques Franck, “Quite remarkably, the winner of the Grand Prix Award this year was decided in record time. It’s rare that all the jury members were so unanimous and passionate about the same film.” The Grand Prix Toutes Categories (Grand Award All Categories) presented to Beautiful Boxer was bestowed by Marie-Dominique Simonet, Minister of International Relations of the French-speaking part of Belgium.
Thai director named Emerging Talent in L.A.
The L.A. Outfest, Southern California's largest film festival presented Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham with the Emerging Talent Award last month. His feature film debut Beautiful Boxer was an official selection at the 22nd Annual Gay & Lesbian Film Festival where the film attracted wide critical acclaim with L.A. Times calling it "a deeply affecting odyssey". This is the sixth film award for Beautiful Boxer. The film was nominated for 13 Thai Academy Awards early this year and won two (Best Actor - Asanee Suwan and Best Makeup Design). Beautiful Boxer also won Best Feature Film prizes at international film festivals in Torino and Milan. More recently, the film won the Jury Prize at the Skieve Filmer International Film Festival in Norway. In addition, it was one of the top three highest rated films in the People's Choice Poll held in conjunction with this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival.
Regent Entertainment, the studio that made the Oscar-winning film Gods & Monsters has picked up the North American and Canadian rights of Beautiful Boxer and will release it in theatres this fall through here! Films and Regent Releasing. In the U.K., the film was picked up for distribution by Metro Tartan Films. Golden Harvest/Panasia secured the rights for Hong Kong territory, the theatrical release of which will commence there next weekend. This will be followed by the Spanish theatrical release by Lauren Films. Beautiful Boxer opened in cinemas across Malaysia and garnered unanimously rave reviews. The film has also opened to wide critical acclaim and record-breaking box office figures in Singapore. It's now scheduled to hit more than 200 cities in Europe, Asia, Australia and the U.S. during the next few months. The worldwide sales for Beautiful Boxer are handled by Arclight Films. The company has sold the film to nearly 20 countries worldwide.
An action drama based on the true story of Thailand's famed transgender kickboxer, Beautiful Boxer was made at GMM Pictures, the film arm of Thailand's largest entertainment conglomerate GMM Grammy Public Company Limited.
After being officially selected for the 54th Berlin International Film Festival where the film played to full houses and wide critical acclaimp, Beautiful Boxer then kicked into Rome when the film was picked and invited to be part of the first-ever Berlin in Rome (Berlino a Roma). A special event featuring selected films from this year's Berlin International Film Festival, Berlin in Rome was presented by the City of Rome and featured eleven films from the Berlin Festival. The screenings took place at the Rome's Auditorium - Parco della Musica in March. Beautiful Boxer is the only Thai film chosen for the programme.
After Rome, Beautiful Boxer will be screened at this month's 28th Hong Kong International Film Festival and the 47th San Francisco International Film Festival. At the invitation of the two Festivals, director Ekachai Uekrongthamp will be in both cities to attend the screenings.
In between Hong Kong and San Francisco, Beautiful Boxer had its Gala Premiere in Singapore on 14th of April at the Lido Theatre - with Singapore Prime Minister's wife Mrs Goh Chok Tong as the evening's Guest of Honour. Nong Toom, whose life the film was based upon; Asanee Suwan, the real-life kickboxing champ who plays her in the film; and the director were present at the Premiere. Proceeds from this screening went to the aid of Action Theatre, one of Singapore's premier not-for-profit professional theatre companies.
Singapore is the first country where the film will launch its international theatrical release. This will be followed by theatrical releases in the United States and other countries in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
"A MOVING FIGHT FOR FULFILLMENT. A singular movie if ever there was one, Ekachai Uekrongtham's Beautiful Boxer is A DEEPLY AFFECTING ODYSSEY…"
- Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
"Moving… intriguing…Features a Phenomenal performance by Asanee Suwan, both fierce and feminine as Toom, a champion kickboxer who becomes a woman. Director Ekachai Uekrongtham fills his debut feature with lush scenery and beautifully choreographed fight scenes. There's great delicacy to a sequence where finely tuned athletes, shrouded by morning fog, command their bodies in unison. It's mascara as the ultimate war paint."
- Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle
"Intriguingly blurring the lines between conventional notions of masculinity and femininity, Beautiful Boxer is a stirring portrait of Thai kickboxing sensation Nong Toom, who decked his opponents while decked out in drag - that is until he earned enough money to pay for a full-fledged sex change operation.
The artfully assembled film is a genuine crowd pleaser and given the right handling by the right distributor, could emerge as something of a Thai 'Billy Elliot'.
Directed by first-time filmmaker Ekachai Uekrongtham from a script he wrote with Desmond Sim Kim Jin, the energetic drama efficiently connects the formative dots that were to shape Toom's destiny…Unlike "Iron Ladies"… playing it mainly for laughs, Ekachai's film takes a more compassionate view of its subject and boasts a dynamic performance by real-life kickboxer Asanee Suwan."
- Michael Rechshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
"Thailand's famous transvestite boxer immortalized in a new movie. Beautiful Boxer is a heartwarming tale of a woman trapped in a man's body... Asanee gives a brilliant performance, both as a shy boy-girl in the masculine, sweaty-body world of kickboxing camp, and as a tormented androgynous star struggling with his sexuality…"
- Vijay Joshi, Associated Press
"Certain to become a must-see on the festival circuit, Beautiful Boxer has the smarts and imagination to gain wide theatrical distribution around the world, initially as a curio, of course, but news of its artistic achievement will draw a much wider audience to this fascinating film.
Uekrongtham illustrates the boxer's inner turmoil in fantasy sequences, in which he sometimes see his other self and dreams of the day he can quit the ring to become a woman. The fight choreography has raw energy, which the director often slows down to catch the exact moment when the fight belongs to Nong Toom. This also produces a ballet-like quality to the violence that only underscores the masculine / feminine dichotomy to the action.
Suwan accomplishes the difficult feat of suggesting the male and female sides to this character while performing the boxing maneuvers with superb dexterity. Here is a person fighting larger and more frightening demons outside of the ring than in. He will only find inner peace when he can change the shape and nature of his body to correspond to what is in his heart and mind.
The movie almost writes its own tagline: "He fights like a man to become a woman," or "Rocky with lipstick." All technical aspects of this move are first rate, which points to the rapid evolution of cinema in what has become an increasingly interesting corner of the movie world."
- Kirk Honeycutt, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter
"Asian films have made more significant inroads into Berlin. Beautiful Boxer, by Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham, has sentiments - and kickboxing - on its side."
-James Christopher, The Times (UK)
"Beautiful Boxer can be described as the story of a small town boy from humble beginnings who struggles with his identity and place in life, only to end up realizing his dreams and finally being able to take care of his family. But in this case, the story takes on a deeper, emotional, dramatic, and ultimately triumphant tone."
-Bryan Lynn Growcock, Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA)
"Beautiful Boxer… boasts a brilliant and brave performance from lead actor Asanee Suwan (actually a pro boxer with no previous acting experience)."p
- Robert Williamson, kamera.co.uk
"Director Ekachai Uekrongtham's fight sequences screen like a brutal ballet… Beautiful Boxer offers a rare glimpse of an individual's struggle to be true to his or her self, at whatever price."p
-Rebecca Redshaw, notesfromhollywood.com
"First-time director Ekachai Uekrongtham - as capable of finding dynamism in a makeup case as he is at capturing the aesthetic beauty of Muaythai moves - faithfully visualizes Nong Toom's life. The result is A TEARJERKER THAT KICKS ASS.""
- Johnny Ray Huston - San Francisco Bay Guardian (USA)
"A compelling English-language release from Thailand, the beautifully made "Beautiful Boxer" ...is summed up in a single early scene, in which he as a young boy at a local fair first sees a Thai boxing match, and then, on seeing a lovely stage performer, first experiences his attraction to makeup... Asanee Suwan is almost note-perfect in a newcomer performance that earned him a Supannahongsa (Thailand's version of the Oscar) for best actor. Fine support comes from the likes of veteran actor Sorapong Chatree as his driven coach and former Miss Thailand Orn-Anong Panyawong as his troubled mother, both in key sympathetic roles.
-Kim Williamson, Box Office Magazine
Ekacahi Uekrongtham’s début feature is a beautifully shot chronicle... Asanee Suwan’s portrayal of Nong Thoom is nothing short of spectacular.... this real-life kick boxer flies through the many action sequences with skill and grace.... His younger counterparts (Sarawuth Tangchit - as a boy; Natee Pongsopol - as a novice monk) are equally convincing in their unabashed understanding of the feminine soul trapped within the male form. “I’m not a boy,” he insists with knowledge beyond his years....
Beautiful Boxer jumps far ahead of the pack of other “coming out films” that seem content with the cheap laugh and an army of stereotypical characters.... From the Ave Maria-like opening bars accompanying the physical transformation from male to female, through the heady drums of battle, Amombhong Methakunbudh’s music is also a major component of the film’s success.
Beautiful Boxer is a magical vision of the ring of the imagination, where anything is possible if the top of the seemingly impossible staircase of self acceptance can be reached.
-James Wegg, Film Threat
The film offers breathtakingly lush landscapes and poetic fight sequences, but Beautiful Boxer mines the most beauty from an abundance of genuine heart... Aside from a thoughtful exploration of the true meaning of masculinity, this well-paced, gorgeously filmed biopic provides a thrilling glimpse into Thailand’s fierce fighting subculture.
-Brandon Voss, HX Magazine