"Eating Levi" chosen for the exclusive Newport Beach Film Festival

 "Eating Levi" was chosen to be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival.  The festival is noted to be "one of the premiere boutique festivals in the country."  Newport Beach is particularly choosy when it comes to the documentary slate.

    "I was told it was a pretty big honor to be included in the program," said Gregory Kallenberg.  "We're really proud of the film and look forward to showing it off to the audience in Southern California."

    The festival is known to attract agents and distributors from around the Los Angeles area.  One agent from the Gersh Agency said the festival was the equivalent of the Hamptons festival on the East Coast.

    "We hope some influential people get to see 'Eating Levi'," says Kallenberg.  "While we really want to see this film get to a bigger audience, we are also looking to start a new project.  This festival could help us launch that effort." 


"Eating Levi" to be featured in Amsterdam Festival

"Eating Levi" will premiere in Amsterdam during the prestigious International Documentary Festival and Docs for Sale. The festival is the largest gathering of documentaries in the world and is regarded as the "Cannes" of the genre.

"We are incredibly excited," said Gregory Kallenberg, director of the film, as he was frentically trying to ready himself for his trip. "I'm not sure I could've scripted a better place to do our international premiere."

"Eating Levi" is the story of Levi Oliver, the world's first IFOCE-sanctioned Tamale Eating Champion, and his relentless quest for fame in the bizarre "sport" of competitive eating. The film explores Oliver's path to defend his title and his desire to hold onto his fleeting fame.

"Hopefully, the film will be well received," said Kallenberg. "We'd love to come out of this with the opportunity to show at more festivals and maybe even talk to someone about helping us on our next project. We're trying to take advice of a friend of the film: 'keep your spirits high and our expectations low.'"




Q&A with "Eating Levi" director Gregory Kallenberg

What is "Eating Levi" about?

The film is a documentary about Levi Oliver, the first officially sanctioned World Tamale Eating Champion. On the surface, "Eating Levi" is about his quest to defend his title. Beyond that, it's a look at the weirdly popular sub-culture of competitive eating and an interesting profile of a man who is seeking success and fame inside this sub-culture.

How did you come across this story?

My friend Vince Palmo passed a magazine story to me on Levi and his wanting to defend his tamale eating title. I thought it was really interesting and kind of funny that someone actually took competitive eating seriously and made the decision to look into it. When I met him, he was using athletic training to increase his ability to be an eater. At that point, I rented a camera and started shooting. I was determined not to let a character like Levi and his story go undocumented.

Was Levi what you expected?

Actually, yes and no. I expected and got a big guy with a big appetite -- he's 6 foot 4 inches and, on our first meeting, put away a 30 inch pizza. I didn't expect to find someone who was as thoughtful about something as far out as competitive eating. Levi was so versed in the sub-culture of eating and hyper-aware of his place in it.

Did this revelation change the story you were trying to capture?

My background is in journalism, so I always expected the story to unfold in an organic way and had no expectation of where it would go. The basic idea was simply to capture Levi on his quest so the short answer is "no." The longer answer is a bit more complicated. i wanted to know why Levi held something like competitive eating in such high regard. What drives him to believe that his title -- and the defense of his title -- was so important. It actually led me to start thinking about myself and my own quests and desires. At the base of his quest, Levi is looking for success and a bit of noteriety. In the end, we are all searching for that. I'm pretty confident when I say that very few want to pass through life in anonymity.

Can you give us a hint if Levi is successful in his hunt for eating fame?

That would sort of give away the story. I will say that I've watched the film a number of times and I'm always surprised by its ending. Levi is such a great subject and is sincere in his feelings and in his quest. I also believe that this film is about more than an eating contest. It's about wanting something and doing everything you can to get it. We all have a bit of Levi in us, and I'd like if everyone left the film in touch with that part of us.

What are your plans for the film?

The present hope is to show it at festivals. Our ultimate goal is to get this sold into television distribution. We think we've created a funny, poignant character study of a man looking for fame as a competitive eater, and we want the opportunity to show it to others.

What's the most tamales you've ever eaten?

That's funny. I actually love tamales, but I'm not great at eating them. The most would probably be a half dozen in 30 minutes. After you see the contest scene, and these guys just snarfing them down, it'll be hard for anyone to answer that question and not feel like an eating whimp.