Sanpeet by Petitto, Giuseppe
Sanpeet by Italian director Giuseppe petitto, is a story of gambling and kick-boxing. The leading character, Sanpeet Petnonnoi, is a small, beautiful, unblemished, bronzed seven year-old boy who lives in the poor region of northeast Thailand known as the "Golden Triangle. Like many boys his age, Sanpeet earns his family some extra money by kickboxing, but the sport is a focus for serious gambling.
The golden triangle in Thailand is infamous for producing and consuming large quantities of opium. Therefore the Thai governement has encouraged Kickboxing as a way of hardening young people against the temptations of heroin. Yet, the sport is tainted by another addiction: gambling. The lower the weight of a boxer, the higher the stakes; this makes Sanpeet, with his sixteen kilos, an attractive betting prospect.
It's uncomfortable to see this 35-pound kid risk permanent injury or brain damage in the ring, and even more so to see his calculating father lay down petty bets on the outcome of his boy's bouts. Yet, it's challenging to our western sensibilities as well. There are things you can't help respecting about this boxing culture. The kids are no brawlers - they train very seriously, running long distances while developing their skills. Their matches have the feeling of Little League baseball games, the proud papas gathering around the ring and offering good-natured encouragement. Sanpeet's mother, a low-paid factory worker who has some misgivings about her son's boxing, still sees a lot of good in it. The extra cash can help buy the boys much-needed shoes and a little education, and it's a good, constructive pursuit in her view. "I would rather he be a boxer than a drug addict," she says. What are we to make of this frightening sport, our values and these poor villagers' as well, when we see the entire picture?