I promised Stef, the nice lady who writes the wonderful men_in_full blog that I’d write a review of A Matter of Size, the world premiere of the Israeli movie about four fat guys who start their own sumo club that I attended Monday night at the Tribeca Film festival with about 2/3 of the LJer formerly known as danbearnyc.
It’s a comedy, if the premise didn’t clue you in. Four fat men, all friends who are in the same Weight Watchers-type diet group, finally get fed up with the shrill and mean body fascist who runs it. One of them is a chef who gets a job at a Japanese restaurant, and his coworkers tell him he has the physique and perhaps the strength to be a sumo wrestler.
And, as it turns out, the owner of the restaurant just happens to be a former sumo coach. He reluctantly assents to becoming their coach, and once they start their training and get their special sumo mawashi loincloths there’s plenty of heroic-size manflesh on the screen.
The four men navigate the rocky terrains of prejudice and self loathing that surrounds issues of weight and body image. There’s the chef, who has a diet-on, diet-off on-off relationship with his girlfriend, who he has to hide his participation in the sumo club because she wanted to join, too, and wasn’t allowed to. He also has a difficult relationship with his mother, the prototypical Jewish mother who berates her son for being fat one moment, and gives him seconds of food two moments later.
Another of the four men is a documentary film maker, which provides complications for some of the men who aren’t comfortable showing off their bodies at first. One of the men is married, but suspects his wife is cheating on him with someone skinny, and the fourth owns a schwarma shop where the four friends usually congregate, who discovers and releases his inner gay bear (although in a way that will appease conservative audiences, too).
So the movie is part Rocky, part The Karate Kid, and part Fatso. The sumo matches late in the movie are very dramatic, since they’re shot in motion picture close-ups with editing instead of the longshots they use for sports broadcasts. The movie’s very funny and the audience loved it.
The directors, producers, and one of the stars were in attendance. They all could speak English although perhaps were not completely fluent in it, but one of the stories they told was how this film also led to better body acceptance by the lead actor, who at first didn’t want to do the movie, and then agreed to it if he could keep his shirt on, and at first would only change his clothes privately in the bathroom and not in the group dressing room, but by the end of the production was running around nearly naked all the time. The only production anecdote that was sad to hear was that although some body fur and scruffy faces are in the film, the directors had a lot of the body fur trimmed and shaved (and you know how hairy some Israeli men can be!) because they wanted the sumo wrestlers to look “like big babies in diapers,” similar to the Japanese athletes.
The movie is a crowd pleaser and will deifnitely get theatrical and DVD releases in this country, although as it’s just starting the festival circuit (it won’t even have its premiere in Israel until this summer!) that won’t be for a while.
After all the shots set in the schwarma restaurant with meat rotating on a spit, there was only one place to head for a bite afterwards, University Pita at 12th & University, a cozy Israeli schwarma joint just a few blocks away, one of the best schwarma and falafel places in the area, especially since they have a selection of over 16 different grilled vegetables, pickles, sauces, condiments, and other additions (three different types of eggplant!), all free to add to your platter or stuff into your sandwich. (Just know that if you stop by, it’s fully kosher so they’re closed Friday nights and all day Saturday.)