Furious PeteThere are moments in 'The Story Of Furious Pete' that will make you turn away in disgust, and perhaps even cover your eyes.

But the film isn't a horror or even a crime thriller. It's a documentary chronicling an all-or-nothing young man who went from battling anorexia nervosa to becoming one of the world's top competitive eaters, vacuuming down bananas, ribs and hot dogs in record time.

"Yeah, yeah, it's gross at times, for sure. I agree," laughs Toronto's Peter Czerwinski, a.k.a. Furious Pete, a 24-year-old student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, whose ultimate goal is to work for NASA, not to eat himself into oblivion. Furious PeteThere are moments in 'The Story Of Furious Pete' that will make you turn away in disgust, and perhaps even cover your eyes.

But the film isn't a horror or even a crime thriller. It's a documentary chronicling an all-or-nothing young man who went from battling anorexia nervosa to becoming one of the world's top competitive eaters, vacuuming down bananas, ribs and hot dogs in record time.

"Yeah, yeah, it's gross at times, for sure. I agree," laughs Toronto's Peter Czerwinski, a.k.a. Furious Pete, a 24-year-old student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, whose ultimate goal is to work for NASA, not to eat himself into oblivion.

His friends call him "unusual," "driven," and "a man of "good morals." He is an only child and close with his parents, but has had to cope with his father's bi-polar disorder and his mother's multiple sclerosis. At 16, Czerwinski's anorexia cut his diet down to half a lettuce head a day, or sometimes tea, a cucumber and diet coke. Now, he's a rock-solid workout enthusiast sponsored by bodybuilding.com. And a champion eater.

"I'm really competitive with everything I do," Czerwinski explains. "Even with school, I'm doing my masters now and I didn't think I would, but I just wanted to keep going with it. Even with training and in the gym, I go to the limits. I'm very competitive in nature and I just push myself to the limit."

Director George Tsioutsioulas was looking for Canadian competitive eaters for his documentary when he came across Furious Pete.

"I found out about his back story and the fact that he almost died when he was 16 years old as a result of not eating, and then seven years later was making a name for himself around the world by doing the opposite, " Tsioutsioulas says. "My mind couldn't compute. The film is as much about competitive eating as it is about male anorexia, something we don't often hear about."

Tsioutsioulas set out to make a documentary on the "sport" of competitive eating with co-producer Igal Hecht after doing a story on the phenomenon for the travel show he hosts.

"When I saw my very first eating contest at the Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, NY, there was a definitely a freak show element to it with all these behemoths eating massive amounts of food," he says. Furious Pete"And the person that won was Sonya Thomas, a 105-pound Korean [American] woman. That blew my mind.

"Then I started digging more and found it really is a big subculture that exists - in the last 10 years alone I'd say. You have the Coney Island Hotdog Eating Contest every year and they get 50,000 people out and ESPN covers it."

The sport is popular enough that there are actually leagues for competitive eating (similar to wrestling and mixed martial arts), with contracts to sign and rules to abide by. Czerwinski, however, is independent by choice.

"There was a league I was once part of, but I didn't stay with them because they brought in some contract that I didn't agree of. For example, I wouldn't have been able to film the documentary under that contract," Czerwinski explains. "There's a poutine contest coming to Toronto and I've asked to compete in it and they won't let me. So it kind of sucks to not be able to compete in all these events, but I find other events to compete in."

Czerwinski's last eating contest was in mid-March, but as the summer season begins there will be many more. He says if he was a part of the IFOCE - that's the Major League Eating & International Federation of Competitive Eating - he could make $100,000 a year. "If you're in Japan, you can probably make close to half a million to a million."

His story is such an inspiration he has been called upon to give motivational talks and write articles for fitness web sites. He regularly receives e-mails from people going through anorexia or bulimia. "That was why I made the documentary, to spread this message that there is hope and people can get better," he says.



There's one question Tsioutsioulas asks almost everyone in the film except Furious Pete: Is competitive eating a sport? So what does Pete think?

"I think it is a sport or more sports entertainment," Czerwinski says. "A lot of people can play basketball, but not everyone can play in NBA level. And everyone can eat, but not a lot of people can eat the way we eat as competitive eaters.

"It's physically and mentally challenging at points, especially going into 10 minutes of solid eating. It gets really tiring, as funny as it sounds. So I think anything that has that kind of competition should be classified as a sport."

Another thing he has in common with sports figures?

"I'm getting groupies and signing a lot more autographs," he laughs. "It's kind of weird at times but kind of fun at times. "

'The Story of Furious Pete' screens at the 2010 Hot Docs festival on Friday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at The Royal Cinema and screens again on Saturday, May 9 at 1:30 p.m. at the Cumberland 3.

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