Buffalo Girls

Day in the Water Life image

(64 min) Thailand/USA

Director: Todd Kellstein
Producer: Jonathon Ker, Lanette Phillips


Buffalo Girls, the wrenching, sometimes heartbreaking story of two eight-year-old Thai girls seeking their country’s national Muay Thai championship, a prize that could change their families’ lives forever. To westerners, the participation of children in Muay Thai may appear reprehensible and indefensible. Fighting without headgear and incurring bruises, bloody noses and even broken bones, there is certainly a physical toll on the children. But in a country where the per capita income is less than 10-percent of that of the US, there are other harsh realities to consider. The impoverished farming communities of rural Thailand offer few opportunities for people to better their lives and boxing is one of the few alternatives to the country’s commercial sex trade as a means of escaping the extreme poverty. For Pet and Stam, the eight-year-old protagonists of Buffalo Girls, boxing is an opportunity to help their parents supplement the family income and improve their standard of living. Child boxers in Thailand can often earn as much as half of a family’s monthly rent from a single bout, sometimes taking home more than what a farmer or factory worker earns in a month. The girls work with professional trainers, doing sit-ups and push-ups, lifting weights and running in preparation for upcoming fights. Although petite, both Stam and Pet exhibit a lean, powerful athleticism in the ring. As a younger child, the earnest, studious Pet was often sick and has a scar on her chest from heart surgery. Her parents credit boxing with improving her health.


Todd Kellstein, after graduating from New College of Florida, offered to help a friend on a senior thesis film. Holding on to a massive light in a rainstorm, Todd had so much fun that he changed his career path from literature professor to filmmaker. Working his way up through the ranks on film sets, Todd went onto be the creative assistant and second unit director and director of photography for commercial and music video director Joseph Kahn. As a second-unit director and director of photography, Todd has worked with Bon Jovi, Sum 41, Ford, Bacardi, Adidas, Nike, Smartcar, Bud Lite and Target.