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Review: Transformer

October 19, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Gaining fame as a champion weightlifter and bodybuilder, and also serving in the US Marines, Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski was seen as a symbol of stereotypical masculinity, and came across as a classic “strong man.”

But Matt always felt there was something different about himself, which he tried to keep hidden. After being outed as transgender on the internet in 2015, and subsequently getting dropped by valuable sponsors because of it, Matt decided to stop living a secret life and finally transition to Janae.

Director Michael Del Monte gains intimate access to Kroczaleski’s family life in the documentary Transformer, which took home both the Best Canadian Documentary prize as well as the general Audience Award at Hot Docs earlier this year.

The film shows her at home with her three supportive sons, while also capturing candid moments when she goes to visit her parents, who both initially struggled to come to terms with the transition. Whether applying makeup, picking out feminine outfits, or pumping iron with nail polish on in one of the film’s most memorable images, Kroczaleski is always open with the camera, and constantly challenging traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity.

While the bathroom bill and trans military ban likely would have been in the news at the same time as the film was wrapping up, Transformer takes a largely apolitical approach to telling its story, and this is one of the strengths of the piece. It allows us to focus on the human element first and foremost, and the film functions as an engaging character piece that provides a fascinating and compassionate look at body image issues and gender identity.

Transformer is now playing in limited release at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Hot Docs Film Festival.

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