In 1998, a Japanese man named Tomoaki Hamatsu, also known as Nasubi, was stripped naked and left alone in a nearly empty apartment as part of a reality TV challenge.

His task was to survive solely on prizes won from entering magazine competitions until their total value reached 1 million yen (about £6,000 at the time).

He remained isolated for 15 months, during which he experienced severe hunger and loneliness, leading to depression and mania.

Nasubi’s story is now being revisited in a new film, “The Contestant,” which recently screened at the Sheffield Documentary Festival.

Nasubi was unaware that his ordeal was being broadcast weekly, making him a huge celebrity in Japan. The TV show, “Denpa Shōnen,” despite being criticized, attracted a large young audience.

This concept predates “The Truman Show” and the reality TV show “Big Brother.”

Nasubi had no clothes, minimal essentials, and no contact with the outside world. He participated in the show after being randomly selected in an audition, with little understanding of the challenge.

His suffering was broadcast with added graphics and sound effects, and he managed to win various prizes, some useful like rice, others useless like golf balls and a globe.

The documentary features interviews with Nasubi and the show’s producer, offering a deep look into his experience.

The film highlights the extreme conditions Nasubi endured, including surviving on dog food and sugary drinks, and remaining naked because he never won clothes.

The documentary reveals that Nasubi’s suffering was immense, but he has a surprisingly positive outlook today. He doesn’t regret his experience, believing it shaped who he is now.

His release was a dramatic moment on live TV, and the film also shows his efforts to use his fame for good causes.

“The Contestant” raises important questions about the ethics of reality TV and the responsibility of both creators and viewers.

It encourages reflection on how entertainment can exploit individuals for ratings and how audiences are complicit in this process.

Credit: BBC .

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