Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, June 14: DOGLEGS
Heath Cozens profile of an underground wrestling league which includes disabled competitors had its world premiere at Hot Docs last year. Other screenings have included Fantastic Fest, Cleveland, and Nippon Connection. It now comes to VOD platforms via FilmBuff.
The titular Tokyo-based setting originated decades ago as a support group for the disabled. Seeing the potential of confronting spectators – and themselves – about disability and ableism, the participants organized wrestling bouts pitting themselves against able-bodied opponents. Rather than going the route of providing a space for a feel-good display of inclusion, however, this league is confrontational – disturbingly so, as evidenced by the seemingly neverending rivalry between founders “Sambo” Shintaro, who has cerebral palsy, and “Antithesis” Kitajima, the group’s non-disabled volunteer leader. Likened to SM play, Kitajima is ruthless in the ring, not only physically, but psychologically, hurling humiliating insults about Shintaro’s frailty. Another combative pair, married couple L’Amant, a crossdressing alcoholic with severe cerebral palsy, and Mrs L’Amant, twice his size, also publicly work out their complex psychodramas in the ring. Cozens presents his audience with often shocking images, making the viewer question from one scene to the next whether what’s on display is empowering or exploitative – or, somehow, both – making for an ever-provocative, complex re-assessment of one’s conscious or subconscious perspectives on the disabled.