It Gets Better

In the anything-goes beach resort of Pattaya, Thailand, The Fountain is a popular cabaret staffed with ladyboys (katoey), or transwomen in various stages of transitioning. But its future is put into doubt when good-looking Tonmai, who has lived in the States most of his life, arrives to shut down the club owned by his late father, whom he never knew. Tonmai is immediately drawn to two cabaret performers, one dainty and one tomboy, despite (or because of?) his straight orientation. Meanwhile, impeccably passable but age-conscious Saitarn (played by ’80s Thai icon Penpak Sirikul) cruises glamorously into a northern hamlet and turns the heads of the most macho studs in the village. In a third story thread, sweet “shy boy” Din, caught by his father trying on his mother’s clothes, is forced to start a new life as a temple novice— his reluctance vanishing when he meets the devout priest he’ll serve.

“It Gets Better” was, you recall, the slogan used by American activists after a rash of suicides to reassure bullied LGBT youth that life would improve. Here the bullying takes the form of familial rejection and the scars it leaves, while the beauty of Thailand’s countryside and the love of ladyboys are a comfort. A little humor, a little understanding, and a lot of beauty and music complete a portrait of transgender lives rediscovered and redeemed, directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a talented and courageous filmmaker, who has fought bans against LGBT themes in Thai cinema.


In Thai with English subtitles.

Co-presented by:
Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

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