Imagine being a boy growing up and wanting to be two things: exceptionally strong, and a woman. This conflict is the centerpiece of the new documentary, Transformer, which follows Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski as she embraces her female side while still participating in and loving the bodybuilding scene. When both her female (Janae) and male (Matt) personas are outed to the public, she is forced to pick one and confront a society that still isn’t comfortable with change.
Transformer is less about the physical transformation into a woman and more about what it means to juggle being transgender when your entire identity is wrapped up in being a man. What makes Janae’s story so interesting is that she doesn’t hide her true self. Her three sons know everything, her parents know all about it, and while the latter are not necessarily very supportive, Janae doesn’t let that hurt her. Instead, much of the movie is about watching her try to mix both her female side and what she believes to be her male-centric qualities. Women can be body builders, but Janae seems convinced on living within a man’s world.
Transformer also doesn’t dive too much into Janae’s sexual preferences or other factors that would typically get much more playtime in a film on this subject. Director Michael del Monte is focused in on Janae’s main dichotomy: being strong while also being a woman. Watching Janae go out at night and try to find clothes that complement a body built for showmanship is a minor moment that captures the essence of Janae’s struggle. What’s even more compelling is this desire to not give up on who you have been your whole life, but still embrace a little change. By the end, Janae has made alterations better suited for herself. While we don’t get much of the aftermath of those alterations, Transformer makes it known that Janae will always have a spot for Matt in her life — even if it doesn’t mesh perfectly with her desires.
The Hot Docs Film Festival takes place from Thursday, April 26 to May 6. Visit the official website for more info.