Little Miss Sumo @ Tribeca Film Festival

Sometimes short films do not necessarily mean “short” stories. This one is a small and personal story which has rather larger implications. On the surface you might think that it is about an athlete trying to compete in her chosen sport on her own terms and not others. In actuality, if you scratch beneath the surface, it is a film about women having to fight for space in this world which is just freely granted to men.

Men do not have to rationalize competing in sports. It is just a given. Classified as natural. Women in sport, especially in higher levels has been fought against for decades. It has been argued that it is not as interesting to watch as they are not as strong or fast as men. It has been thought of an unnatural as women should be preparing their bodies for bearing children not competely physically. Argued that women are not natural competitors. Dismissed as viable on a professional level because people will not pay to see women compete. The arguments are lengthy, untrue and damaging.

Here is one young woman who is ignoring all that along with the biases against women competing inherent in her country of Japan. Hiyori is a sumo wrestler. Actually she is a female champion. Starting at a young age, she is now at the top of the heap within her sport. Sumo is the national sport of Japan. They take it very seriously there. Unfortunately for her she will have to retire at the age of 21 as women are not allowed to compete after that age. The sumo ring is seen as a sacred place only meant for men.

While trying to deal with this Hiyori is training for the biggest competition of her life. While training she also deals with the mental strain of thinking she would lose the most important part of her life. She begins to really question why this is so. Why women are forced out of sumo wrestling as they are reaching their peak?

The short film is directed by Matt Kay and in 18 minutes takes on a big story. It is the first film to be made about women in sumo wrestling. He manages to give a clear and behind the scenes picture of Hiyori the athlete and person. It is an important one which does not deal just with sport, but gender roles in today’s world. More than the roles men and women play (or don’t play, in this case) it looks at the silliness of the imbalance.

Fighting against long standing traditions and stigma is a big take on for any one person. Though her shoulders are wide Hiyori is just one woman fighting against the system. Part of what makes her the success she is is the passion she has for her sport and the drive and ambition she possesses. She wants to be the best in world and will fight to be able to continue in it. Working inside the ring and outside this 20-year-old is ready to take on everyone who will stand in her way – comeptitor or naysayer.

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