A new documentary about bodybuilding trans-men will premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival
The documentary Man Made follows transgender men as they prepare to compete in TransFitCon Atlanta. The movie is directed by T. Cooper, with Tea Leoni as executive producer. Leoni helped inspire Cooper to go forward with creating the film. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said, “I met T. years ago [but] had not heard him lit up like this about something, maybe ever... Because I got a call very early on about it, the first part of my involvement was just encouragement. I knew the film had to be made and I knew he had to make it. The beginning of my involvement was just really insisting that T. do this, and that I would help in any way that I could, and that ballooned into talking to some other people and being able to come back to T. and say, ‘There’s a lot of interest in this.'”
Cooper says, “I moved to Atlanta about four years ago and through the grapevine, I heard about this bodybuilding competition for transgender men. I thought, ‘Wow, I want to write about this,’ because it’s been my go-to medium. So, I actually pitched it to a couple of places, and people were definitely interested, but once I started spending time with these guys, it just felt like it needed to be more than two-dimensional. I just got in there, and threw a camera on my shoulder, and took off. Once I started looking at footage, I was like, ‘Okay, this has to be a feature.'”
Cooper explained that he gained the males' trust by being transgender himself. It created a sense of comfort and rapport instantly. These individuals have not only gone through the transition of making their bodies reflect the gender they identify with, but the transition to bodies that require intense work and dedication regardless of transitioning. Leoni says, "I was taken with the whole metaphoric theme of making your body and creating your image to be how you see yourself, and I was so taken with these individuals. For me, personally, by the end of it, I was outraged by how far behind we are in the most basic human decent progression. There is resistance to people who are simply just trying to exist in the world, to coexist. It motivated me, and I hope that it will motivate other people, to continue these kinds of discussions and to expand their compassion to those who are different. This is an important story. Frankly, it was really, truly a deep honor to be involved.”
The TransFitCon in Atlanta is the only all-transgender bodybuilding competition in the world. The documentary follows four of the male bodybuilders and their journey to empowerment and strength, and it hopes to illuminate not only the struggles and strengths experienced by this group of transgender individuals, but the drive for forging our own identities and paths.
Man Made will have its debut at the Atlanta Film Festival on April 22 at 9pm, at the Plaza Theatre. The ATLFF has been in full swing with screenings, panels and workshops.