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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2015: Doglegs

Doglegs

An underground Japanese wrestling league, where the disabled fight the able-bodied, is the subject of Doglegs.  Doglegs is a an underground wrestling league in Tokyo, where disabled wrestlers fight against the able-bodied.  A number of the wrestlers in the league are profiled, including retiring veteran “Sambo” Shintaro, cerebral palsy-diagnosed alcoholic L’Amant, and clinically depressed caregiver Yuki Nakajima.

Doglegs is something that can only come out of Japan.  If something like this league was put on in North America, it would likely send human rights groups into an uproar.  The Doglegs league was formed in 1991 as part of a volunteer group and the events now attract at least 300 spectators.  The central subject of Doglegs is 20 year veteran “Sambo” Shintaro, who is preparing for one final fight against his rival “Antithesis” Kitajima, before retiring to a normal life of working as a janitor.  The film also features L’Amant, who self-medicates his cerebral palsy with sake, and his caregiver Yuki Nakajima, who is one of the few wrestlers in the league with the invisible disability of depression.

The question that has to be asked while watching Doglegs is whether this story is inspirational or exploitative.  Even though one of the disabled wrestlers comments at one point that “this is a league where we can win,” the fights depicted within the film seem pretty one-sided, with the disabled wrestlers often losing to the able-bodied.  The matches are much more akin to Mixed Martial Arts than Professional Wresting and typically just involve the disabled wrestlers getting beaten to a pulp.  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.

★ ★ ★ 1/2 | FAIR 

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).