Sumo wrestling has long been misunderstood (even joked about) outside of Japan, but Eiji Sakata’s earnest documentary takes a peek behind the curtain to show us the intense training and mental fortitude required for the sport.
With unique access to the Sakaigawa stable – one of Japan’s noted training grounds for wrestlers – we first meet Goeido, the stoic rikishi who struggles with a torn bicep as he attempts to defend his position for yet another year in the country’s highest division of professional sumo. He’s contrasted with Ryuden Goshi a bubbly personality from another stable as he regains form after a broken hip that saw him fall through the ranks. We follow both as they take different approaches to fortifying themselves against their opponents – a vital aspect of their preparation, because as one of the wrestlers confesses “Everyday is a traffic accident”.
Instead of getting bogged down by thetechnicalities of competition, Sumodo focuses on the journey these men take through a year of bouts, with details on their lives at the stable where they eat, train and form friendships with one another. When you get to know their stories, the signature thunderclap of their bodies slamming into each other in the ring becomes all the more dramatic. — Ammar Keshodia