In rural regions of Thailand, you expect to see bright green rice fields plowed by water buffalo and Thai farmers in hand woven straw hats harvesting in the traditional ways of their ancestors. But when you come around one particular corner of a winding back-country road outside hilly Korat, Thailand, a large sign reads in English, "Bonanza Ranch." Chet appears; a tall, dark man dressed in American imported wranglers, worn leather chaps and a cowboy hat. A western-style ranch has sprung up in the middle of a tropical paradise complete with roaming horses, a bucking bull and an old west style shooting range.
Chet is part of a tribe of John Wayne emulators who regularly gather to host rodeos, have cowboy and Indian events and play bluegrass music. They are after the American Dream romantically depicted in the Western films of John Ford, and embedded into Thai culture by the items left by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.
This Western influence sparked a chain reaction of Thai cowboy films in the 1970s, creating an unexpected marriage of cultures. Utilizing candid interviews, archival footage and homages to Thai-western films, Thailand Cowboy explores the fascinating subculture through Chet, a charismatic, rugged individualist yearning to live the American cowboy dream, while attempting to hold on to his traditional Thai culture.