[Atlanta Film Festival] Documentaries: Man Made (2018) - Reviewed

Man Made had its world premiere at ATLFF

Man Made (2018), directed, produced and by filmed by T Cooper and co-written by T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper, is a four character driven reality drama documenting the lives of four transgender men.

They are Dominic, Mason, Rese and Kennie, and are at different stages in their transitioning. The narrative of competing in Trans Fitcon (a bodybuilding competition opened to anybody who self-identifies as a transgender male, regardless of physical presentation) is juxtaposed against their backstory, struggles, relationships, and bringing their bodies into alignment with their gender identity which creates the dramatic tension that moves the documentary.

T Cooper has woven together many visual elements to create a compelling film that is beautifully shot. The filmmaker makes use of innovative animation techniques, diverse angle shots, editing techniques, archival footage, social media, cut aways, still photography, voice-over narration, first person interviews, and third person interviews to create a poignant and powerful film that gives his subjects a voice and a context to tell their stories in their own words. It's a balanced documentary for the filmmaker explores their transitioning from the perspective of the subject, and the impact it has had on their lives and bodies, and from the perspective of their partners, and the family members who have remained in their lives. Cooper has filmed his subjects living their lives, doing chores, working at their jobs, relaxing, partying, spending time with loved ones, attending doctor visits, working out, and competing. By the film's end, you see them for who they are and not for the gender they were born with.

Cooper not only creates intimate portraits of these four transgender men but has included first person interviews of the other contestants, and the judges of the competition, capturing the vitality and camaraderie of the Trans Fitcon community. On a personal level, I found the documentary inspirational and a celebratory expression of the power and indomitable spirit of the self to find its true expression.

Man Made is a powerful documentary deserving of your attention. Cooper has done a superb job in demystifying the transgender experience, challenging preconceptions people may hold, and has demonstrated that transitioning is a complex process fraught with unique challenges and difficulties. The film has enormous educational value and can serve as a vehicle to promote social change and understanding. 

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-Stefan Chiarantano