Watch it on VOD In the USA and vimeo worldwide


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.


“Sambo” Shintaro

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…

“Antithesis” Kitajima

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.

Yuki Nakajima

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.

Mrs. L’Amant

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.

About the Group

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 Team

The Filmmaker

Heath Cozens is a journalist, cinematographer and filmmaker.

Raised in New Zealand, he spent eighteen years in Japan, where he worked in broadcast news, documentaries and commercial films.  He’s earned a crust as a local producer on television shows for Discovery Channel, History, the Travel Channel and MTV, edited for Bloomberg and shot for the likes of AFP, Al Jazeera and the Discovery Channel.

Heath moved to New York late in 2013, where he continues his work.

Director’s Statement

Disability is in the eye of the beholder.

I’d been in Tokyo for 18 years when a journalist friend of mine mentioned this off-limits, taboo subject that pretty much all the foreign correspondents in Tokyo had already pitched, everyone getting the same response: ‘This is amazing, but there’s no way we can touch it.’ I asked what it was, and he said, it’s handicapped pro wrestling.

As soon as I heard those two words, I was overcome with a wave of conflicting emotions. It sounded dangerous, fun, mind-blowing and very un-PC. But it also sounded like it could be some very exploitative endeavor with an evil circus ringmaster type cracking the whip with so-called freaks parading out for people’s entertainment.

So I went to a show, not really knowing what to expect. And when I actually saw them fight, I was blown away all over again, because it was so much more than I expected.

The venue was full of supporters and family members, disabled and not, laughing and cheering. There was warmth, humor and a celebration of difference and individuality – including disability. That felt right. And it also felt very punk rock – home made, self­-effacing, uncompromising and fun. Then, I started to realise that the wrestlers were demanding that you look at them. And at in turn, at yourself.

It was the interplay between all these contradictory emotions that excited me. As  I tried to sort out my feelings, I also began to question my own assumptions about disability. I started to realise that the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing was by design. The wrestlers were demanding that you look at them. And in turn, at yourself

Exploitation is a valid concern, but it can also be a kneejerk reaction stemming from coddling, condescending urges to protect people we subconsciously assume are unable to think for themselves. Doglegs asks us not to impose our limiting beliefs on others, and to judge each person and relationship on an even-eyed, case-by case basis.

Doglegs liberated from preconceptions that I didn’t know I had. I’m hoping that through this film, I can share that experience with others.

As these reprobate fighters ­in all their handicapped, cross­dressing, alcoholic, manic-­depressive glory­ forge their identities through combat, Doglegs holds up a mirror to our own preconceptions.. How the hell should I feel about this? What is a disability, and who gets to decide? What does it mean to live, love and be truly free? These are the questions that I hope the viewer is left with.



Director and Producer – Heath Cozens

Cinematography – Heath Cozens

Editors – Heath Cozens, Andrea Mendoza

Assistant Editor – Casey Swoyer

Composer – Sean Crownover

Audio Engineer – Dusty Albertz

Production Stills – Alfie Goodrich, Jérémie Souteyrat

Executive Producer – Stephen Higgins

Co-producers – Hazuki Aikawa, Andrey Alistratov

Associate Producer – Mizuki Toriya


Production Partners






*December Screenings*

Doglegs returns to Osaka (Juso) this Saturday Dec 10th for a limited 6-day run. Last chance to catch it on the big screen! With English subtitles.…/movie-theaters/osaka-area-cg/…

Yogyakarta! The film’s getting it’s South-East Asia premiere Friday Dec 6, at Festival Film Dokumenter (FFD) . Yuk, kita tonton!


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1. watch iT ONLINE

Doglegs is now available on demand!   Due to transferal of ownership rights, it’s currently unavailable to stream in Asia, Australia and NZ… but we’re working on it.

Get it on Vimeo (worldwide except Asia, NZ and Australia)→

Get it on iTunes (US only)→

Get it on Amazon (US only)→

Get it on Vudu (US only)→

Get it on Google Play (US only)→

Get it on XBox (US only)→


If you’d like to hold a private screening  for your group, please drop us an email .  Speaking engagements are also possible.

3. watch It in theaters in JAPAN

*UPDATE*  DOGLEGS is back!   Playing at Tollywood in Tokyo and the Roxy in Nagano for a super-limited time.  (Updated June 7, 2017):   (J/E subs)

Prefecture Theater Dates/ Times Inquiries
Aomori Cinema Dict Finished 017-722-2068
Niigata Takada Sekaikan Finished 025-520-7442
Nagano Nagano Aioiza/ Roxy 6/29 – 6/30 2017 026-232-3016
Saitama Kawagoe Scalaza Finished 049-223-0733
Tokyo Tollywood 6/10 – 6/16 2017 03-3414-0433
Tokyo Pole Pole Higashi-Nakano Finished 03-3371-0088
Kanagawa Jack and Betty Cinemas Finished 045-243-9800
Ishikawa Cine-monde Finished 076-220-5007
Nagoya Cinema Skhole Finished 052-452-6036
Kyoto Rissei Cinema Finished 080-3770-0818
Osaka The Seventh Art Theater Finished 06-6302-2073
Osaka Theater Seven Finished 06-4862-7733
Hyogo Toyooka Gekijou Finished 0796-34-6256
Hyogo Motomachi Eigakan Finished 078-366-2636
Hiroshima Yokogawa Cinema Finished 082-231-1001
Fukuoka KBC Cinema Finished 092-751-4268
Miyazaki Miyazaki Kinema-kan Finished 0985-28-1162
Okinawa Sakurazaka Theater Finished 098-860-9555


Filmmaker’s Q & A

How did a New Zealander end up making a movie about handicapped wrestling in Japan?

I was working in Japan.  A colleague and I were brainstorming ideas to pitch for a video report.  He said had an idea that every correspondent in town had already pitched –  only to be shot down in flames. I inquired what it was. “Handicapped pro wrestling”, he said.   “That’s not a news report; that’s a documentary,” I thought.

So I went to a show.  And I didn’t know what to think, or feel.

When you walked in, there was this wonderful, middle-class, upstanding family environment. There were kids running around, well-dressed, multi-generational families in attendance. Pure Japanese propriety.

And then what unfolded in the ring was alternately shocking, hilarious and dangerous. But everyone there seemed to be having a really great time. It was an emotional roller coaster for me. I was amused, ashamed, excited, concerned and entertained. There was cognitive dissonance and I knew that this project was going to sustain my interest, or drive me crazy. Or both.


What would you say to people who think that this league, and this film, is exploitation?

That’s a good concern to have. When I first heard about the group, I wondered if I might have to do some kind of expose.  But people were so happy to be there. That felt empowering. For the wrestlers, and for their friends and family.

I started to wonder if the questions of exploitation that I had were coming from a protective impulse. Why do we need to feel the need to protect disabled people?

I don’t want to be condescending. If they want to get up there and fight, I say “alright, okay. It’s not my place to judge, especially when they’re already judged by so many other people.”



So this is somehow good for the wrestlers?

There are a lot of benefits. Some go in there and they want to work out frustrations. Some want adulation. Some want to make a political point. It’s an arena for people to be seen as abled or disabled as they want to be. That’s the power and the beauty. The key thing is to look at every person and give them the benefit of the doubt.




Which of the people in the film do you identify with the most?

I guess it’s Shintaro, because he’s always battling. He never gives up. Making a film like this in the wilderness has been hard. The struggle that Shintaro has, the fact that he’s so dogged, no matter how many times he gets beat down, he gets right back up. I see him as the Energizer Bunny and that makes me try to hold myself to that standard as well.




There seems to be a lot of cruelty. A lot of people behaving inhumanly to other people.  Do think this is representative of the world of handicapped wrestling  or of humanity itself?

Well this may be partly a cultural issue. Japan is, in a way, much more self-deprecating. There is so more mutual piss-taking than we are used to in the West. It’s almost like a form of greeting to say “you’re looking fat.” When somebody actually lets their hair down and says that stuff, that’s an expression of affection. It’s like calling your loved one “dumpy-poos” or something.

Being direct with people, by which I mean showing them your true self, rather than a social mask, is a special thing in image-conscious Japan. If you are not holding back in your interactions, it means that you are ready to have a real dialog –  not just phatic communion.  It speaks of respect – the respect that you give your equals.

Of course one, if not the most, direct methods of communication is physical connection – with a fist, or otherwise …



How have the subjects reacted to the scenes in this film. Have they seen it?

They have seen it.  I haven’t received detailed feedback but I know they’re good with it.  They’re a supportive bunch.





Do you think we’re all handicapped, in a way?

Yes. Shintaro said that exact same thing to me. That even the able-bodied are handicapped. Everybody’s got a handicap, to an extent.

I actually did boxing training. When I started filming with the group,  I tried to get into the fighter’s mindset (laughs.) And I injured my wrist after a few weeks – on the punching bag. I injured the nerves in my wrist, and that scared me because I needed to shoot. It took six months before I got better.  So yes,I am handicapped, by my own physical limits, by my fears and my preconceptions. But I’m not handicapped by others’ limiting beliefs, as many in Doglegs are. My options are far broader than most people who we’d normally call disabled or handicapped.

It’s almost as if the act of judging someone disabled or handicapped –  verbally or otherwise, we’re limiting their options through our own belief systems, so I’ve struggled with what terminology to use throughout this film – handicap, cripple, disabled …  They’re all so laden with meaning, and it’s often negative and limiting.  In the film, and with the promotional material, I chose to use the word “handicap” a lot because it’s a word that Doglegs themselves use.  It feels to me like Doglegs is reclaiming a word that has been sullied by negative connotation and are making it their own, even though I don’t think that negative connotation really exists in Japanese. It fits for me anyway, because Doglegs is a proto-human rights movement for the marginalized, and they’re reclaiming ownership of their image.

A large part of handicap is in the eye of the beholder –  our labels can limit.  That’s not to say that we can wish disability or inequality away by ignoring it. I think the way forward is to not focus on the problems, but the solutions. Engage with people on their own terms. If someone is having trouble crossing the street, you try to help them, right? Labels become kind of irrelevant at that point.

In this film, you are doing two things that are often criticized.  1) Making a film as a foreigner about another culture.  2) Making a film about disabled people as an able-bodied person?   Why do you think you are qualified to do this?

I’m probably not (laughs.) I was enticed by the challenge. I felt drawn into it because it challenged my sense of moral righteousness. That’s a problem for able-bodied people. Our righteousness. My film is not only empowering for disabled people but for able bodied people because it is removing the crust that prevents them from engaging with disabled people on a natural level. I think it’s a horrible, soul-destroying thing for an able bodied person to default to pity for the disabled.




In this film, you are doing two things that are often criticized.  1) Making a film as a foreigner about another culture.  2) Making a film about disabled people as an able-bodied person?   Why do you think you are qualified to do this?

I’m probably not (laughs.) I was enticed by the challenge. I felt drawn into it because it challenged my sense of moral righteousness. That’s a problem for able-bodied people. Our righteousness. My film is not only empowering for disabled people but for able bodied people because it is removing the crust that prevents them from engaging with disabled people on a natural level. I think it’s a horrible, soul-destroying thing for an able bodied person to default to pity for the disabled.






We have t-shirts!  We’ll be selling them at theaters in Tokyo from 2016 (Pole Pole, Tollywood).   Check back here soon for web sales info, too.  Cheers!




“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

“A glorious celebration of life… …easily one of the most moving and challenging films of the year. A must see.”
Steve Kopian, Unseen Films

” 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, Twitch

“I will be thinking about Doglegs basically forever”
Joe Gross, Austin American Statesman

“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