‘Boxer’ Wrestles With Transvestism

Biologically speaking, sexuality is an easy concept to grasp. Whether you learned about it through a high school sex education video, your parents or childhood experiences, the gender differences between men and women are universally understood. However, what if you were a woman born into a man’s body? How would you describe yourself and how far would you be willing to go to find out?
In the film ‘Beautiful Boxer,’ director Ekachai Uekrongtham approaches the controversial issue of transvestism in a very unique way. Based on the true story of legendary Muay Thai boxer Prinya Charoenphol, the plot follows the journey of a sensitive young man named Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan) who ends up literally and figuratively fighting to fulfill his dream for a gender reassignment surgery.
By playing with paradoxical motifs, Uekrongtham pushes the limits of contradictions while leaving the audience with no choice but to question the concept of sexual identities. Take, for example, the opening shots in which the audience is immediately presented with images that oppose one another. A woman’s painted hands delicately applying lotion onto soft dusky skin fades into powdered dust from the boxing tape that is wrapped around calloused fingers, both of which move in harmony with the sound of violins smoothly playing somewhere in the black backdrop. Though clearly different, these hands are united through an ambitious boxer seeking beauty in a violently masculine sport.
Imagine Rocky with lipstick and you will have Nong Toom, complexly sweet and na