27 Jul 2016

Doglegs: Disabled wrestlers who fight the able bodied

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:19 pm on 27 July 2016

Former Wellingtonian Heath Cozens was living in Tokyo when he came across a rather unusual pro-wrestling league.. in which the disabled battle the able-bodied.

Heath was so intriguied he decided to start filming the competitions and followed the fortunes of several of the disabled wrestlers as they prepared for competition and the able bodied wrestlers who beat them up.

"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"

Shintaro Yano ( "Sambo" Shintaro) watches on as tag-team partner L'Amant delivers a kick to able-bodied "Antithesis" Kitajima's face.

Shintaro Yano ( "Sambo" Shintaro) watches on as tag-team partner L'Amant delivers a kick to able-bodied "Antithesis" Kitajima's face. Photo: Doglegs film

The result is contronting film Doglegs which screens at the New Zealand International Film Festival

Heath Cozens says rather than being exploitative, the wrestling league is liberating; "The wrestlers are up there of their own volition, and no one is making any money out of it. They have their own reasons for being there, and you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. If it's exploitation, then you're saying that the people in the film are not independent agents. To say that they're being exploited is condescending."

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