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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 12, 2018 

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Despite being one of the finest volleyball players in Thailand, Mon (Sahaparp Virakamintr) is overlooked for selection in his local team. Itís a simple matter of bigotry. Heís gay and the coach is homophobic. But when Coach Bee (Sirithana Hongsophol) takes over, it appears Mon will get his chance. Unfortunately, the rest of the team arenít impressed by his selection and with the exception of Chai (Jesdaporn Pholdee) quit en masse. Coach Bee suggests Mon recruit some more open minded team mates, and the The Iron Ladies team is born. Based on a true story, the narrative follows the evolution and fortunes of the eventual winners of the 1996 Thai male volleyball championship Ė a team consisting almost entirely of gay men, transvestites and transsexuals.

"Locally we're meant to be sick of 'quirky' comedies, but internationally the quirky style has caught on like wildfire, particularly in countries with small film industries trying to crack the world market. While The Iron Ladies is based on a real-life news story - which must have seemed like an absolute gift to the filmmakers - in marketing terms it's Cool Runnings meets Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Like the former it's a sports movie with a zany 'high-concept' twist. Like the latter it packages homosexuality for a straight audience, focusing more on the surface signifiers of gayness - swishy mannerisms, colorful outfits, bitchy backchat - than on actual love or sex between men. The weird thing is how these Western stereotypes of queeny behavior can be transferred to Thailand almost unchanged - as if being gay were a multinational franchise like McDonalds. So it's a parade of predictable characters and jokes: the closeted boy with conservative parents, the flighty drag queen who quotes Gloria Gaynor (in English), the sensitive muscleman who shrieks when he breaks a fingernail... I don't want to be too hard on this decent-spirited movie, but the crude reliance on mainstream formulae seems like a waste of a potentially strong idea. The overt (and boring) message is that effeminate gay men can be as tough and sportsmanlike as anybody else. Yet by their very existence the Iron Ladies parody these same codes of manly behavior - and mock the macho pretensions of male sport in general. If the film had explored this subtext rather than playing for safe laughs (and had shown us a bit more about what it means to be gay in Thailand) it might have been fascinating. After all, it's not often you find a true story as striking as this one: just try and imagine a flamboyantly gay sports team achieving comparable success in Australia..."
Jake Wilson

"The All Blacks have the haka, gridiron players have perfected the aeroplane strut as a touchdown encore and the Brazilian soccer team have their post-goal love-ins, but they must surely all concede to a team that entered the court of male sporting combat with thickly made-up faces and a unison wiggling of the buttocks. All the more kudos to the real-life Iron Ladies that they married such colour with success. The true story of this unique volleyball team sounds interesting enough, but the mixture of lipstick and slapstick with which it is portrayed here is a fizzer of championship proportions. Minority group get a chance, steel their mascara-enhanced countenances and win the day against the odds. End of fairy-tale. The excitement level generated by the predictable narrative equates roughly to the rapture one might expect from the appointment of Rev. Fred Nile as M.C. for apres Mardi Gras. Itís hard to believe a gay story could be so dull. Perhaps something got lost in translation but the dialogue is so inane it brings a Shakespearean aura to an episode of The Golden Girls. Attempts at serious statements about bigotry are presented with such immature simplicity that they border on the condescending. A major hit in Thailand (which could only be explained by the celebrity of the real-life team) this impotent production is the flagship of The Mardi Gras Film Festival in terms of mainstream box-office success. I havenít seen any of the other films, but itís quite possible there are more meritorious offerings that simply wouldnít crossover well. I certainly hope so, or the festival must be quite a drag."
Brad Green

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CAST: Jesdaporn Pholdee, Sahaparp Virakamintr

DIRECTOR: Yongyooth Thongkonthun

PRODUCER: Visute Poolvoralaks

SCRIPT: Visuthichai Bunyakarnjana, Jira Malikul and Yongyooh Thongkonthun


EDITOR: Sunit Asvinikul

MUSIC: Amornpong Methakunawut

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Naruecha Vijitvanit

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: (Sydney) March 15, 2001 (Melb) March 22, Other States TBA


VIDEO RELEASE: January 23, 2002

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