Janae Kroczaleski Documentary Wins First Place at Austin Film Festival

“Transformer,” the documentary about one of the world’s strongest powerlifters coming out as a transgender woman, premiered at the Austin Film Festival this weekend and won best feature documentary.

Born Matt Kroczaleski, Kroczaleski began competing in powerlifting as a teenager and to this day holds the UPA world record total in the 220-pound class with 2,551 pounds. You can watch the trailer for the film below. To learn a little more about the athlete and the film, check out our article about the trailer.

BarBend caught up with Kroczaleski to say congratulations and learn a little more about how the screening went.

BarBend: How was the reception in the theater?

The reception of the documentary was overwhelming. When Michael (the director) and I took the stage for the Q&A at the conclusion of the documentary we received a standing ovation. I was completely shocked and delighted that the audience enjoyed it so much.

How did it feel to get this award after being a part of its production for so long?

Receiving the award for best feature documentary at the Austin Film Festival was also a big surprise to me but of course a very exciting one! I honestly don’t think it has all sunk in yet. I am so excited about what this may mean for us and my ability to reach people. 

Did you get any interesting questions during the Q&A?

There were lots of great questions during the Q&A and I was disappointed we didn’t have enough time to answer everyone’s questions. I don’t know if there was any one question that was the best but there were definitely some interesting ones, including one that asked about what role therapy and therapists play in the transitioning process.

This is somewhat controversial because in our situations, therapists often act as gatekeepers and a trans person can not legally receive hormone therapy or pursue gender confirmation surgery without letters from a licensed therapist. In many cases, this can be time and cost prohibitive especially for trans people that do not have adequate medical insurance.

Please don’t misunderstand me: therapy can be life changing and even life saving in many cases, but not every trans person needs therapy to know that they are transgender and that moving forward with the transition process will bring them peace of mind and body. 

What’s next for the movie as far as release goes?

We are still waiting to hear about many of the other film festivals and until it completes its run through the festivals Transformer won’t be able to air, because once it airs it is no longer eligible. It will air on the CBC network in Canada once the festivals are complete and there is interest from many other networks but those details are still being finalized. I will of course post that information when it becomes available but I am confident in saying that everyone who is interested in seeing the film will be able to do so.

Featured image via @janaemariekroc on Instagram.


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I’m a journalist with over seven years' reporting experience on four continents, with most of that spent covering health-related issues. My experience includes covering cholera outbreaks in Kenya and the clubbing scene in Shanghai, which is also where I wrote my first health article for an English language magazine. (It was on diarrhea.)After returning to Australia to finish up degrees in Journalism and International Relations I wound up in New York City, where I’ve worked for Men’s Health, VICE, Popular Science and others. I try to keep health relatively simple — it’s mostly vegetables and sweat — but I live to explore the debates, the fringes, the niche, and the nitty gritty.