Ever been so hungry you could eat a horse? Or an elephant? How about 20 sausages or two giant breakfast platters? Well Pete Czerwinski can, and he is the topic of The Story of Furious Pete , as presented as part of the Hot Docs Film Festival. A former anorexia patient, Pete’s life took a turn after hospitalization and near death to the world of competitive eating. While Pete isn’t necessarily furious, his story is one to behold.
Presented as part of the “Canadian Spectrum” program, Furious Pete is the story of Mississauga native Czerwinski and his struggles with body image, and ultimately struggles with the political world of competitive eating. While many might find the concept of competitive eating revolting (this writer included), there is beauty and grace in the tale and most importantly, a moral.
The first third of Pete’s story is shocking as the disclosure of his anorexia is unveiled and explained beyond a teenage struggle but a monkey that stuck with him into his 20s. We witness accounts of his parents and Pete’s own confessions about his avoidance of food and hospitalization as it crippled him during university. The discussion is candid and unabashed, especially for a man, about whom body image issues are rarely discussed. Unlike many news reports, exposÃ©s, and even documentaries that tackle the issue of anorexia, Furious Pete is refreshing as Czerwinski has clearly emerged a changed person from the ordeal. This takes us to his new world of bodybuilding and competitive eating.
As Pete’s new life unfolds, we see a man without a gag reflex and ability to ingest 20 sausages or two handfuls of bananas in a matter of minutes. As Pete moves from county fair to 7th inning stretches at baseball games he demolishes champion eaters with conviction to take on the world. There are struggles in this as Pete is disallowed from competing in major league eating competitions due to his entrance in a series of other leagues and smack talk of his opponents. Granted, the act of competitive eating is an exercise in gluttony, but a purpose does emerge.
Upon learning of his mother’s diagnosis with MS, Pete still engages in his passion for food but to raise awareness for the disease and to make his mother proud. Working past the obvious stomach churning that comes hand in hand with watching grown men and women stuff their gullet without chewing, Furious Pete is an uplifting story and great awareness of the pitfalls of anorexia.
Sadly this film is buried amongst higher profile Canadian documentaries in the Hot Docs schedule, but Furious Pete is worth a viewing as director George Tsioutsioulas handles the story openly and honestly, giving the subject more freedom to dictate the story rather than working off a strict shooting plan.
The Story of Furious Pete has one more screening at the Cumberland on May 9 and is highly recommended for your consideration, just avoid the popcorn while viewing. For more information, please see the Hot Docs schedule.