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Takeru Kobayashi fights to get back his crown in HUNGRY

MIDNIGHT DOCS: HUNGRY (Jeff Cerulli & Barry Rothbart, 2013)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Friday, November 15, 11:59 pm
Festival runs November 14-21

“Every person has a basis desire to eat,” Takeru Kobayashi says at the beginning of Jeff Cerulli and Barry Rothbart’s tasty documentary, Hungry. “There is also the desire to sleep, to have sex,” he continues. “That’s why it’s difficult to see eating as a sport.” From 2001 to 2006, Kobayashi almost single-handedly put the sport of competitive eating on the map by winning the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest six straight times. But as interest around the world grew, a seemingly irreparable gap grew between some of the sport’s champions and the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), which runs Major League Eating (MLE) and is owned and operated by brothers George and Richard Shea. In the film, Cerulli and Rothbart explore the controversy over contracts that led to Kobayashi, Dave “U.S. Male” Goldstein, Brad “the Lunatic” Sciullo, and other rather unique characters being cut off from MLE and taking part instead in unsanctioned events. Goldstein opens up his home to the filmmakers, sharing personal moments with his family, while the rebel Sciullo discusses his battle with a twenty-pound hamburger. Cerulli and Rothbart also speak with such competitive eating champs as Mike “the Scholar” Devito, Furious Pete Czerwinski, Crazy Legs Conti, and El Wingadore, in addition to Dr. Christopher Dimaio, a gastroenterologist who has a word of warning for all of them. But they do what they do because they can’t stop the need to compete, just like any other athlete, and also because some of them don’t have anything else. “Normal life is dreadful,” says jalapeño master Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti. The film gets both exciting and disgusting as Goldstein and others prepare for Wing Bowl, followed by Kobayashi coming up with his own plan for July 4. Whether you consider competitive eating a true sport or not, Hungry will make you hungry for more. Hungry is serving up its world premiere November 15 at 1:45 at the IFC Center as part of the “Midnight Docs” section of this year’s DOC NYC festival, with Cerulli, Rothbart, and Kobayashi on hand to talk about the film. The festival, which seeks to “cross fertilize [by] gathering practitioners of many fields — filmmakers, writers, photographers, and other storytellers — to inspire each other,” runs November 14-21 at the IFC Center and the SVA Theatre; among the other “Midnight Docs” are Christina Voros’s Kink, Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math’s The Final Member, and Morgan Matthews’s Shooting Bigfoot.

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