Friday, September 11, 2009

[Israel Film Festival] A Matter of Size

One Two Hut

For some of us, it's at times an uphill battle with the bulge. Some blame it on lifestyle, others on physiology, while some become resigned to genetics. I suppose it's not only a concern with females going into a fluster when additional weight is gained, but males as well as we wake up one fine day, and discover that our six packs have merged into one singular blob. The choice is clear - do something about it - hitting the gym at least - or continue to indulge in our current lifestyle of choice. For me, the latter is quite evident.

It's easy to label Israeli movie A Matter of Size as just another "fat movie", where comedy comes naturally from the meanness in poking fun at another's huge waistline. A lot of comedies are guilty of this to the point that they become grossly offensive. This film thankfully shied away from offending, though it still came with plenty of pot calling the kettle black, at times the characters themselves mirroring some of us, where we utter insensitive comments without a clue on the damage and hurt they will cause.

Written and directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, the duo had crafted an endearing tale about self-identity, and the challenge to always be comfortable with oneself in mind and body. It's easy to cheer someone on in doing what seems to be natural for us, but one heck of a mountain to climb for the other. For Herzl (Itzik Cohen), being part of a fitness club is sheer torture for his lack of results, and constant ridicule from the trainer, who thinks that it is in her arsenal to insult Herzl into becoming thin again.

Facing discrimination everywhere, from home and to the workplace, he chances upon Sumo wrestling when he got a job washing dishes at a Japanese restaurant, and realizes that one can still gain respect and admiration despite being fat. He gathers a few close but skeptical friends who share his similarities in girth, and thus begin their journey into sumo training, but what they're about to gain is not just techniques in wrestling, but some important lessons about life itself, where it is always convenient to put the blame when things don't go right onto their physical exteriors, or someone else, yet always failing to look at what's lacking inside, and coming to terms with it.

There's a little bit of everything in the film, from comedy, to romance, friendship, relationship and the likes, that will keep you engaged throughout. Itzik Cohen is extremely charismatic as he chews up the screen with his presence, and I'm not referring to physical size here. The cast did an admirable job in bringing some realism into their sumo moves (their 3 months training paid off), and carried off their individual arcs convincingly, especially Itzik's counterpart Aharon (Dvir Benedek), who can shuffle between having the meanest mouth amongst the group, and arguably their greatest critic, with his mean streak and prepping the way of being the roadblock to Herzl's chance for success at a tournament.

Maymon and Tadmor steered clear of having the group's reluctant instructor Mr Kitano (Togo Igawa) as a caricature or a homage to Mr Miyagi with his wax-on-wax-off nonsense. Kitano doesn't spout fortune cookie words of wisdom, or has some trickery move up his sleeve to impart, and despite that tough man demeanour and violent back story, is also capable of an encouraging, funny line or two.

What I had enjoyed about the film is how it subtly reminds us to be who we are, and not look down upon ourselves just because we are different from the expected norm. In fact it is this uniqueness that we can harness to becoming something special, and so long as we are true to ourselves, success in some way will come, measured by a personal yardstick and not that which is imposed by society. I like this film, and it's highly recommended.

It's currently sold out for the festival given its great word of mouth from festivals and being nominated for every award in the Israeli equivalent of their Oscars, but fret not as this should soon be coming to a theatre near you as well.

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