Directed by: T Cooper
Written by: T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper
Director of Photography: T Cooper
Executive Producer: Tea Leoni, T Cooper, John Hirsch and Ron Yassen
Cast: Mason Caminiti, Dominic Chilko, Kennie Story, & Rese Weaver
Man Made is an insightful, compassionate documentary that follows the extraordinary (and in some ways, ordinary) lives of four transgender men as they prepare to compete at TransFitCon, to date the only all trans-bodybuilding competition in the world (it’s held annually in Atlanta, Georgia). Indeed, the film had its world premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary Feature and Jury Award; it also received Best Documentary Feature at the Translations Seattle Transgender Film Festival. The awards are deserved.
Directed by trans-filmmaker T Cooper with both humanity and reverence, Man Made follows four trans bodybuilders as they not only prep for the contest but also battle their own inner turmoil (and in a few cases, demons). They hail from such varied locations as Atlanta, St. Paul, Cleveland and Arkansas, and each brings a different perspective and set of experiences on what it’s like to live life openly as transgender. Some have loving stories of family acceptance (most also have romantic partners); but there are a few who have gone through devastating loss. Yet each finds great inner strength; they will not be “defined” by society’s conception of manhood. Each has their own personal story to tell, and each is on a journey of self-identity and empowerment. The results are startling…and the film is an undeniable winner.
Though these four individuals are certainly extraordinary in many ways, Man Made also shows how wonderfully alike we ALL are; we all want to be loved, to find a partner, to be happy and respected. One couple met through a Facebook group. Others discuss how difficult it is to get good health insurance. And though you see the drive for social justice, each of these exemplary athletes want what we all want: to be seen beyond gender and just be seen as a person. “I’d like to just be left alone so I can just be,” says Mason. Kenny’s mother says simply, “How can you not be okay with your kid being happy?” It’s all you need to know…and all that really should matter.
With Man Made, T Cooper has made one of the most authentic documentaries about living as transgender in America. It’s about how we all come down the same path, how we all carry scars (both internal and external). The irony with our four competitors is that these trans bodybuilders want nothing to do with being judged…unless it’s in competition. Man Made is a worthy, emotional addition to LGBTQ cinema.
From the Back Row,