Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

T Cooper's Film Gives a Voice to Trans Bodybuilders

March 31, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


T Cooper is many things: a best-selling fiction author, a writer for TV, and an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Emory University.

Now Cooper is adding to his résumé and stepping into the director’s chair with the full-length documentary “Man Made,” which follows four men competing at Trans FitCon, the world’s only all-transgender bodybuilding competition.

“I wanted this film to reflect on what it means to ‘be a man’ or ‘be a woman’ at this particular cultural moment,” Cooper says. “The metaphor of bodybuilding of course dovetails nicely with this larger pursuit, because in many ways we are all bodybuilders in our lives.

“As humans, we build our lives and worlds (and bodies) in the ways we desire, and we are constantly evolving as humans, from the moment we are born to the moment we leave,” he continues.

Accordingly, the stories Cooper tells in his film are compelling and transformative, and address things such as identity, politics, and mental health with both sensitivity and nuance.

“As I filmed more and more with these subjects, it became more and more clear to me what an incredible story I had on my hands—both individual stories and on the level of a collective story about trans masculine life in our culture and country at this moment,” Cooper says.

“A challenge that frequently reared its head was the pressure of wanting to make sure I told these guys’ stories in a way that was authentic and true.”

One of the documentary’s main subjects is Cleveland-based bodybuilder Mason Caminiti, who, in addition to training for Trans FitCon, has also participated in mainstream competitions.

In 2014, Caminiti was the first transgender man to win a gold medal in bodybuilding at the Gay Games.

His impressive training regimen and openness to discuss his path to self-acceptance—he once attempted suicide and lives with bipolar disorder—make him one of the most poignant subjects featured in “Man Made.”

“In Mason I think I was given the heart of the film in some ways, maybe even a thesis,” Cooper says. “I mean, he’ll tell you himself: Bodybuilding literally saved Mason’s life, in more ways than one.”

In a separate interview, Caminiti shares that being in the film has “changed people’s hearts and minds,” including, and especially, people in his own life.

“It’s changed the relationship between my parents and I,” he shares. “After they saw the film at a screening near them, it was one of the first times in my life my father actually said he was proud of me.

“I can’t say enough how much I appreciate T or the opportunity to be part of such an amazing project,” Caminiti adds. “T being transgender helped myself and the other subjects connect and create a level of trust that is unparalleled.”

—Annie Zaleski

PHOTO: Filmmaker T Cooper wanted to “wholly represent the FTM (female-to-male) side of trans life,” he says, “because we don’t see it represented as much as we see MTF (male-to-female) trans stories, for instance.”

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.5 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/31/19 @ 7:20 PM – Man Made
04/01/19 @ 2:05 PM – Man Made

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