Doglegs

Directed by Heath Cozens

Doglegs is a cheerfully iconoclastic underground scene where the disabled battle the able-bodied - all in the name of exploding stereotypes. When the disabled champ seeks life and love beyond the ring, his idol, the able-bodied organizer, tries to sabotage his bid for independence. In a battle of the human spirit, can the power of disability win our hero his dreamgirl?

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  • ★★★½ review by Jason Coffman on Letterboxd

    For 20 years, "Sambo" Shintaro has been the star of a Tokyo-based semi-underground wrestling league called Doglegs. Doglegs allows people with physical and mental disabilities an arena in which to fight each other as well as able-bodied people like Shintaro's best friend and ringside nemesis "Antithesis" Kitajima. DOGLEGS follows Shintaro leading up to what he hopes will be his triumphant retirement match against Kitajima, but Kitajima throws him off by suggesting that the winner of the match earns a glorious retirement. Shintaro has never beaten Kitajima in their 20-year history; can he pull it off this time, or will Kitajima walk triumphant, unbeaten, into the sunset? DOGLEGS offers a look at a world that will be vaguely familiar to wrestling fans with its outrageous showmanship, but also completely unlike anything most viewers have ever seen before. Parallel stories follow L'Amant, a cross-dressing fighter with severe cerebral palsy, and how his family deals with his sadly declining health, as well as L'Amant's caretaker Yuki Nakajima, who suffers from paralyzing depressive episodes. Along with many touching segments out of the ring, there's a lot of footage of the fighters in the ring as well, some of which is terrifying. Ultimately, DOGLEGS is an inspiring but realistic look at the triumphs and trials of these utterly unique fighters in various aspects of their lives.

    Fantastic Fest 2015 Day 3 coverage:

    dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/fantastic-fest-2015-day-dispatch-2/

  • ★★★½ review by Steve Austin on Letterboxd

    Interesting observational doco about a very niche subject - disabled Japanese wrestling as response to societal perceptions.

    Only one main character is followed, but its clear that there are many more that could be told from the stable of wrestlers (which was confirmed by some similarly compelling anecdotes from the director in the Q&A afterwards).

    Doesn't leap us to any real conclusions; we're just left to decide for ourselves what's exploitative and what's not.

  • ★★★★ review by semisara on Letterboxd

    A challenge to watch at times, but that's a good thing. I found the central message of the story to be less about "exploitation or empowerment?" and more a candid exploration into the lives of a group of disabled people and those close to them, in a society the where mental and physical disabilities are still unfortunately considered embarrassing and taboo. As someone who lived in Japan for a long time but rarely caught a glimpse of this world, it was educational, intriguing, and a bit bittersweet.

  • ★★★½ review by Sean Kelly on Letterboxd

    The question that has to be asked while watching Doglegs is whether this story is inspirational or exploitative. Even though these disabled wrestlers do build self-respect, it’s at the cost of putting on a spectacle for hundreds of spectators. This is really a film to watch and make your own decisions about.

    Blog Review: www.skonmovies.com/2015/05/hot-docs-2015-doglegs.html

  • ★★★½ review by Jason Coffman on Letterboxd

    One of my five favorite documentaries from 2015: medium.com/@rabbitroom/2015-recap-part-2-honorable-mentions-five-favorite-documentaries-five-non-2015-releases-158fa9b39380#.gdh54tj0x

    For 20 years, “Sambo” Shintaro has been the star of a Tokyo-based semi-underground wrestling league called Doglegs. Doglegs allows people with physical and mental disabilities an arena in which to fight each other as well as able-bodied people like Shintaro’s best friend and ringside nemesis “Antithesis” Kitajima. DOGLEGS follows Shintaro leading up to what he hopes will be his triumphant retirement match against Kitajima, but Kitajima throws him off by suggesting that the winner of the match earns a glorious retirement. Shintaro has never beaten Kitajima in their 20-year history; can he pull it off this time, or will Kitajima walk triumphant, unbeaten, into the sunset? DOGLEGS offers a look at a world that will be vaguely familiar to wrestling fans with its outrageous showmanship, but also completely unlike anything most viewers have ever seen before. Parallel stories follow L’Amant, a cross-dressing fighter with severe cerebral palsy, and how his family deals with his sadly declining health, as well as L’Amant’s caretaker Yuki Nakajima, who suffers from paralyzing depressive episodes. Along with many touching segments out of the ring, there’s a lot of footage of the fighters in the ring as well, some of which is terrifying. Ultimately, DOGLEGS is an inspiring but realistic look at the triumphs and trials of these utterly unique fighters in various aspects of their lives.

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