Our League

A community of bowlers just outside of Cleveland cope with fundamental change when new owners take over at a landmark alley and a longtime league member comes out as a trans woman.

Funding Initiative
Short-Form Open Call
Producer/Director

Sam Cullman

Cullman has shot numerous documentaries for broadcast and theatrical release. He was a cameraman on Why We Fight, which won the Sundance 2005 Grand Jury Prize for documentary. Most recently, Cullman was the Director of Photography on King Corn, an ITVS documentary about the American diet and food system. Cullman has also produced and directed a number of Show more short films for government agencies and non-profits such as the NYC Housing Authority and the SEIU. Show less

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The Film

When Michelle Guzowski returned to Mahall's 20 Lanes for league night after a lifetime of bowling there as Michael, she wasn’t sure how folks would react. She had long felt like a woman on the inside; but now, in her late 50s, she was finally ready. The risk felt overwhelming; she could face bigotry, lose old friends, and feel forced to sacrifice the sport she’d adored since childhood. But Michelle always felt at home on these lanes and she needed this space and these connections as much as she needed the new relationships and the new life she’d begun to cultivate since her transition. It was a risk she had to take. But her home-away-from-home wasn’t exactly stable. 

In this Rust Belt community just outside of Cleveland, where steel work and other manufacturing jobs have been steadily vanishing for decades, declining attendance recently forced the original family at Mahall’s to sell the business. Changes were swift: new ownership introduced microbrews and fancy cocktails, and opened an art gallery and a music venue alongside the nearly hundred-year-old lanes. Against the backdrop of bigger-picture cultural shifts – globalization, automation, smart phones, and millennial values – Mahall’s longtime bowling league members found the changes disorienting. 

In a time of flux and redefinition, Our League is a personal and nuanced portrait of everyday people coping with change, difference, and the microaggressions and small triumphs of a person and a community in transition.

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