On July 7, 2021

‘Man Made’ is a difficult, worthy transition 

By Bruce Bouchard

“Man Made”:  Feature, Documentary (USA-2018) Directed by T. Cooper

For four years, I was a screener for the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. A number of these films are now available on streaming platforms. It is my hope that film lovers will find the time, dig in and enjoy some of these treasures.

This stunning documentary film, “Man Made,” will make some audience members uncomfortable and may well fully transform that discomfort. It takes place in the transgender bodybuilding world. The four trans men featured in this finely wrought film all have something in common; they participate in bodybuilding competitions, and they aren’t just participating to win. They are bravely stepping onto the stage wanting to be seen for who they know themselves to be.  All art, when great and unified, illuminates and glorifies what it means to be human. This film climbs to the top of the list as it deals with four men transitioned (and transitioning) from female to male within this specific milieu. The metaphor of “body-shaping” as a sport is a triple entendre in service of the thematic guts of the film and takes one’s breath away. While it might be criticized by some for voyeurism, nothing could be further from the truth of this filmmaker’s vision.  Nothing in our culture will better function as a tool for understanding, acceptance and transformation of discomfort or predisposition than seeing this film. No work of art or essay or talk show has better illustrated the organic truth of discovery that a human being is living in the wrong gender body. The film’s additional texture is provided by wives and mothers and fathers and grandparents and nieces and the struggle to better understand the potential of our own acceptance. Oh my, this film is a major accomplishment, and it is a thing of beauty. The film actually concludes with the first transgender fitness competition, at which (after following four principals and their families) we meet 10 more competitors. Please consider taking this important journey… It can be streamed on Amazon Prime. 98 minutes.

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