The Iron Ladies
Directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon
Thailand, 2000, 104 minutes
When: Thursday, May 26th, 2011 at 6:45 PM
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC
Winner of 10 awards and nominated for two others, this is a delightful, funny sports-themed movie with a message. It's based on the true story of a male volleyball team that competed in the Thai national championships in 1996. The twist is that the men on the team were gays and transsexuals, often referred to as katoeys or ladyboys.
Jung (Chaicharn Nimpulsawasdi) sells sweet rice cakes and is totally supported in his flamboyant gayness by his parents. He's about to leave Lampang, in northern Thailand to go to Bangkok with his friend Mon (Sahaphap Tor). Mon has again failed to make a private volleyball team because he's gay. Just before their train leaves, Jung sees a poster announcing tryouts for the province's volleyball team and convinces Mon to join him in giving it a chance.
Fortunately for them, the team has just gotten a new coach (Shiriohana Hongsopon). She's gay (described as a "dyke" by some of the straights who expect to be on the team) and has no prejudices about who plays. She only wants to put together the best team possible.
after her boyfriend has dumped her
When Coach Bee includes Jung and Mon in her picks, all but one of the straights quit to play elsewhere. To bring the team up to the minimum of six players needed, Jung and Mon recruit some of their friends.
These include: a soldier, who's described as being built like a buffalo; Pia, a glamorous cabaret performer who's had silicone breast implants; and a closeted gay who's engaged to marry a "real" woman.
To serve as reservists, Coach Bee recruits a trio from players she's previously coached. These three look so much alike and move in unison to such a degree that one could mistake them for triplets.
The Iron Ladies is a great watch. It's message of tolerance is a lofty one and is expounded in a gentle manner -- as opposed to hitting one over the head with a sledge hammer -- that befits the nature of the characters. Be sure to stick around for the end credits as they include photos and clips of the actual Iron Ladies from the 1996 team.
ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.
I absolutely think it'll be best seen at the Asia Society screening, but for those who can't make it, the film is available on DVD to purchase (link at amazon.com) or to rent from Netflix. The same is true for The Iron Ladies 2 (2003), a combination prequel and sequel.
Thursday's screening of The Iron Ladies is being shown as part of the Blissfully Thai film series which is co-presented by Asia Society and Cineaste.