Disabled wrestlers in Japan challenge stereotypes in film 'Doglegs'

Fri May 8, 2015 7:40pm EDT
 
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By Atsuko Kitayama

TORONTO (Reuters) - Filmmaker Heath Cozens hopes to smash stereotypes about the disabled with his new documentary "Doglegs," about a handicapped pro-wrestling league in Japan.

The New Zealand-born director discovered the wrestlers, who sometimes fight able-bodied opponents despite their physical and mental disabilities, while living in Japan for 18 years.

The film premiered at the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in April.

Cozens said he wanted his first feature-length documentary to take the audience on the same emotional rollercoaster he felt when he saw a Doglegs match for the first time.

“I wanted to laugh, then I felt bad about myself wanting to laugh and ashamed,” Cozens explained in an interview. “I just didn’t know how I should feel about it.”

"Doglegs" follows five members of the Tokyo league as they confront their disabilities and demons in the wrestling ring and in their personal lives.

The film shows fans cheering as fighters bash one another mercilessly and a female announcer spices up her commentary with personal details about the combatants.

Cozens said exploitation was a valid concern and initially he thought about doing an expose. But as he watched a match he saw what a positive environment it was and that they were changing peoples' attitudes about the disabled.   Continued...

 
Two Doglegs fighters with cerebral palsy Tetsuya Nagashima (L) and Senjo no Yukiina battle during the making of the documentary film Doglegs in Japan in this October 8, 2011 handout photo. REUTERS/Alfie Goodrich/Handout via Reuters