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A group of fat people from the Israeli city of Ramla is fed up with the sanctity of diets and the 'Dictatorship of the Thinness' of the diet workshop they participate in. They leave it and discover the world of sumo, where fat people like them are honored and appreciated. Through sumo they are connecting to themselves and to their fat body, each one in his own way. Herzl an obese guy, starts to work as a dish washer in a Japanese restaurant in Israel. Herzl is exposed to the world of Sumo through Kitano, the restaurant manager, who was a Sumo coach in Japan and escaped to Israel, after he got involved with the Yakuza. Herzl falls in love with the Sumo world and wants Kitano to be the Sumo coach of his obese friends that gave up their diet. "My Own Private Sumo" is a movie about the coming out of the closet of fat people and about their ability to accept their fatness and relate to their body through the world of sumo. Written by
Only now I got to see 'A Matter of Size' or 'Big Story' (Sipur Gadol) as the original title in Hebrew goes, a film that surprised both the international and Israeli audiences a couple of years ago. International audiences were surprised as they seem to be any time a film from Israel deals with subjects that are not related to the Israeli-Arab conflict, to war or terrorism or their consequences. There was also however a surprise in this film for the Israeli audiences as well. Those who came to see the routine comedy that this film promised to be taken into account the background where it happens and the actors, were surprised to watch more delicate subjects of personal identity and courage of assuming it being dealt with in a light and spirited manner. The result is not bad, and the mild success that the film enjoyed was in my opinion deserved.
The heroes of the film all come from the lower class environment of a city which can be described as central in location and peripheral as social status in today's Israel. Herzl (acted by big-eyed Itzik Cohen), his girl-friend Zehava (Irit Kaplan) and his friends all fight an oversize problem, which places them into the class of pariahs in a world obsessed by diets, as their weight places them out of the criteria of aesthetics and social acceptance. To some extent overweight is in the film directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor a symbol for all the other inequities of gender, origin or social nature that make people different (which is a normal thing) but can also lead to discrimination (which must be fought). The fight is however not so much with the outer world but merely with the inner personality of the heroes. The physical disadvantage is turned into an opportunity when Herzl and his friends discover that the traditional Japanese sport of sumo can earn them respectability, but as they soon learn sumo is not only about being fat, it is also about proving strength of character and endurance in face of adversity. The tools of personal success or even survival are the same in any context.
The film does not take itself too much in serious, and this is both a quality as it stays pleasant to watch and can be enjoyed by practically any audience but also a weak point, as it cannot avoid some of the expected clichés of the feel-good movies.Taking upon the sport of sumo in a country that is the opposite of Japan from so many points of view is a comedy subject by itself, and there are a few spectacular moments of comedy with the big fat men running in their red sumo panties in the city or on the roads but the authors were so proud of them that they repeated them three times. Besides the lead roles, Dvir Benedek gives a good performance and so does Togo Igawa as sumo master Kitano (a homage name?) who comes to Israel for Zionist reasons. It's overall a movie that is nice to watch for everybody and with enough substance to make even the more sophisticated viewer unable to be sorry for the time spent watching it.
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