In fact, after an interview with his wife (not for this film), stating that she didn’t think competitive eating was a “real sport.” Shea shut down the media, only allowing approved outlets that he could control to cover his events. He knew he had a monopoly, and when Kobayashi began getting endorsement deals, Shea demanded his cut. When the competitive eater refused, he would be banished from Major League Eating and immediately discredited in retaliation.
As Chestnut begins racking up win after win, his stiffest competition arrives in the young upstart, Matt Stonie. Like any dramatic sports story, Scarf Face shows Stonie quickly taking Chestnut down. In 2011, MLE created a women’s division with its first champion Sonya Thomas followed by Miki Sudo. But the problem with these gastro-stars was Kobayashi in the background, who remained the best eater, but could never prove it.
“…Joe Ruzer and Sean Slater bring a great deal of enjoyment and quirkiness…”
While exploring this strange sport, the larger-than-life personalities, and severe health concerns leading to the death of two competitors, the documentary morphs into an indictment of Shea and competitive eating. The film dives deep into Shea’s questionable financial dealing with sponsors and competitors and the treatment of its “athletes.” The death of two competitors from eating-related complications is investigated. There are also two wild interviews with two disgruntled competitors, the uber-odd Phil “Luminatti” Furden (who quit the sport because of his distaste for bulimia) and an anonymous competitor who lambasts the killing of animals for such a useless sport.
As mentioned, Shea nor anyone associated with MLE consent to interviews. So yes, the documentary is incredibly one-sided, but a compelling story nonetheless. I like to have balance in my documentaries as much as possible. Still, who knew there was so much corruption in this silly sport?
Filmmakers Joe Ruzer and Sean Slater bring a great deal of enjoyment and quirkiness to Scarf Face. From the opening introduction about Nathan’s and the cast of characters present, there’s a sense of fun present. But, as we explore the happenings behind the scenes, enough conspiracy theories and odd investigative journalism tactics are uncovered to satiate any skeptic’s appetite.
For screening information on Scarf Face, visit Indie Pix’s official website.
"…who knew this sport had a dark, seedy underbelly?"