It doesn’t last long, but Netflix’s new short documentary is a powerful, feminine look at female sumo wrestling.
Needless to say, “little” isn’t a term that applies to Hiyori, the subject of Netflix’s new short documentary Little Miss Sumo. But the “miss” certainly fits. Hiyori is 20, one of the best sumo wrestlers in the world, and a woman in a sport which still clings to a conservative attitude that’ll likely force her into retirement before she reaches her physical prime. Matt Kay’s 20-minute film is a brief but powerful examination of ingrained cultural attitudes, the spirit of physical competition, and the potential for change, artfully shot with a notably feminine essence.
You wouldn’t necessarily associate sumo wrestling with femininity, which I suppose is the point. It’s that perception that is consistently challenged in Little Miss Sumo through the usual collection of archival footage and voiceover. The short manages to reliably find the beauty and elegance in titanic tussling and frames the sport’s traditions in a way that communicates its message; not just that women can and should be allowed to do it, but that they do it in a way that is distinct from but no less powerful than their male counterparts.
Despite its short runtime, Little Miss Sumo is able to incorporate enough of Hiyori’s family life in Aomori and her training for the world championship that you wish it was longer so it could include more. There’s clearly a lot to unpack here, from the cultural significance of the sport of sumo to its intricacies and traditions, and the discrimination facing the women who want to embrace and be a part of it. As a fleeting, meditative snapshot of a woman fighting not just for titles but for the right to do what she loves without prejudice, this is a powerful short documentary well worth your time.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.