Doglegs came into being in 1991 Tokyo, when it was still just a volunteer group for the disabled.
A young Shintaro and another disabled man had been locking horns over a girl – a volunteer who’d been helping out.
After several weeks of fending off their romantic overtures, the young woman suddenly quit the group and was never heard from again. It was rumored that she’d had a nervous breakdown.The two young men blamed each other and, egged on by the others, it came to blows.
This fateful altercation was the spark that began Doglegs as it exists today. Somehow, it was more than a duel – it was awakening; a reaction to the coddling, condescending expectations of polite society. The two men were transformed, energized, alive.
Yukinori Kitajima, the group’s volunteer organizer, came up with the idea of forming a wrestling league for the disabled. “Let’s show people this pro wrestling of ours. We’ll shock the unthinking able-bodied out of their complacency and give them some real food for thought. Then, maybe we can shake up their rigid thinking about disabled people and the volunteer community.”
Today, Doglegs has become a place where the marginalised can express themselves and confront their demons. Wrestlers don’t attempt to hide their faults or imperfections, and they don’t let their differences define them. Their tenacity, passion and black humor stands in fierce opposition to a society that refuses to view them as equals.
Doglegs events draw audiences of 200 or more. As it has been since the start, all wrestlers and support staff are volunteers, fighting for self actualization and not money.
Of the original line-up, only two men now remain: Shintaro, and Kitajima.
About the Film
In a renegade Tokyo pro-wrestling league called Doglegs, the disabled battle the able-bodied in the name of smashing stereotypes. After 20 years of glory, the group’s star dreams of life beyond the mat, but his mentor isn’t letting go without a fight…
Set against the backdrop of this impending showdown, the film takes us on an extraordinary journey inside the lives and loves of five prominent Doglegs members battling to claim their place in the world.
The star of the show, and the film, is “Sambo” Shintaro.. After 20 years as Doglegs’ star fighter, he dreams of a respectable life beyond the ring — and hooking up with a certain special lady. But before he can hang up his gloves, his friend and nemesis “Antithesis” Kitajima has a diabolical ultimatum…
Kitajima is the group’s volunteer leader: a searing intellect behind the scenes, and a brute in the ring. He’s touted as “the man who has beaten up the disabled for twenty years”. He believes that fighting the disabled without kid gloves is a sign of respect.
How do you get respect if your disability is invisible? Outwardly ‘normal’, but clinically depressed, Yuki Nakajima seeks recognition and respect… but depression and wrestling can be a volatile mix.
Cross dressing legend L’Amant (“The Lover”) has severe cerebral palsy – for which he self-medicates, despite strict doctor’s orders to lay off the bottle. He’s promised his wife and son he’ll die in the ring. That’s if the booze doesn’t get him first.
With L’Amant unable to pour his own booze, but drinking himself to death nonetheless, Mrs. L’Amant is torn between preserving his autonomy – or his life.
In his native New Zealand, filmmaker Heath Cozens worked as a travelling puppeteer teaching disability awareness, made short films and worked in TV before graduating from Victoria University with a film degree in 1996. He relocated to Japan that same year, where he learned the language and produced, directed, shot and edited news, documentaries, and commercials.
Heath currently is based in the US, but maintains strong ties with Japan. In his documentary work, he continues to embrace trailblazers and iconoclasts, like Doglegs, who subvert the status quo and create their own reality.
*Updated June 17, 2018*
*ALAMO ON DEMAND RELEASE*
Doglegs is now available everywhere on Alamo on Demand (‘cept Japan, because it’s being repped locally there)! This is wonderful news for the film – Doglegs won Best Director: Documentary Features at Fantastic Fest, which is an Alamo event. Doglegs really found its people there.
*JAPAN DVD RELEASE*
Following up on its Nihon Eiga Channel broadcast, Doglegs is now available for rent and purchase via DIMENTION in Japan!
The DVD (purchase version only) contains nine previously-unseen scenes and a 10-minute mini-documentary. It comes with Japanese and English subtitles and is available via HMV, Tower Records, Amazon, Rakuten, and other online retailers
Doglegs hits the UK at the inaugural Burning Hammer Film Festival, the UK’s first pro-wrestling film fest.
When: Sat 15 September 2018, 19:30 – 21:00 BST
Where: Newspeak House, 133 Bethnal Green Road, London,E2 7DG United Kingdom
Get your tickets here.
*TOKYO SCREENING & Talk*
A one-off chance to see the film and meet Doglegs fighters in person. FREE SCREENING!
When: December 8, 2018 (PM)
Where: Details coming soon – stay tuned.
“Great documentaries don’t just change how you look at the world. They change how you think about yourself. That’s Doglegs. Fearless, challenging, provocative, and touching in ways you will never see coming.”
Richard Whittaker, The Austin Chronicle
“DOGLEGS is one of the most powerful blasts of empathy and humanity I’ve ever experienced. I saw a lot of amazing movies at Fantastic Fest, but DOGLEGS was easily my favourite. It devastated me.”
Jason Lapeyre, director of I Declare War
“This movie immediately brings you in with a giant bear hug and only lets go when it feels you’ve come to understand something you never thought you would, why they do it and why it’s not your call to say if it’s okay or not…a canine out of ten… …Great film”
Muldoon, Ain’t it Cool News
” By turns heart-wrenching and hilarious, Doglegs is a fascinating, once in a lifetime look into a world that you may not have known existed, but you’ll certainly never forget.”
J Hurtado, Screen Anarchy
“Always involving…deeply moving”
John LeFore, Hollywood Reporter
”Viewers expecting ‘Patch Adams’ will have their hopes dashed with boiling oil and a chainsaw. To be clear, this is the film’s greatest strength; a refusal to submit a “life-affirming” narrative, often coming to blows with the low expectations of audience members expecting a Rocky Balboa outcome. Doglegs isn’t going to change your mind, but alter the perceptions behind certain belief systems at the molecular level.”
Jennifer Matsui, Counterpunch