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.

Michelle Guzowski competes for the Championship as teamates and competition look on at Mahall's Twenty Lanes
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
June 15, 2022
36 minutes
Funding Initiative
Short-Form Open Call
Headshot of Sam Cullman

Sam Cullman

Sam Cullman is an Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose works include If a Tree Falls, The House I Live In, Art and Craft, and The Lion's Share. In addition to providing camerawork for his own projects and those he produces, Cullman’s cinematography has also appeared in dozens of other docs for TV and the big screen.

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The Film

Following an extended hiatus, Michelle Guzowski returned to Mahall's 20 Lanes after a lifetime of bowling there and came out to fellow bowlers as a trans woman. Although she had long felt like a woman on the inside, now, in her late 50s, she was ready to redefine her place in the league. 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.