Hulu has acquired the rights to The Contestant, the documentary feature from MRC and Misfits Entertainment that had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.
The Contestant is the true story of aspiring comedian Tomoaki Hamatsu, nicknamed Nasubi, whose fame kicked off in 1998 when he starred in reality competition series “Denpa Shonen: A Life in Prizes.” The show’s premise left Nasubi naked in a room for more than a year and tasked him with filling out magazine sweepstakes to earn food, but he had no idea he was becoming the most famous TV star in Japan as the series broadcast to more than 15 million people. (To cover his nudity, producers superimposed an eggplant image over his private parts).
The film explores one of the first extreme reality shows that pushed boundaries and gave rise to an explosion of the genre worldwide. The feature documentary reveals the true story behind the series with director Clair Titley drawing key insights from both the show’s producer, Toshio Tsuchiya, who was always willing to push his contestant to the brink, and Nasubi himself, whose life was irrevocably changed by the experience.
“My Life in Prizes, that was very much cruel,” Nasubi told Deadline earlier this month. “The only thing I could do is to write and mail in to win the sweepstakes. There is no happiness of my life. There is no freedom… But that was not edited into the program, that was not shown. Maybe three or five minutes a week out of my life [were shown]. And that was edited to highlight my happiness when I won [a prize]. Of course, viewers would say, ‘Oh, see, he’s doing something fun and something that he’s enjoying…’ But the majority of my life was suffering.”
The Contestant was produced by Misfits Entertainment, Megumi Inman, Andee Ryder and Ian Bonhote.
“In the beginning, the people working on the television show really kind of created all the loneliness for me,” Nasubi told Deadline. “I really felt cornered. And then I felt that’s really scary, how humans can do that to other people.”
Courtesy of Deadline.