An interview with Film Director Arturo Montenegro
By Cesar A Reyes
The San Diego Latino Film Festival is right around the corner and as part of the festivals LGBTQ showcase “Somos”, there is a long list of films that you will want to check out. One in particular is the Panamanian film; Todos Cambiamos (We all Change). The film deals with the hard decisions a Trans person has to make after living a life as a husband, father and businessman but needed to be true to himself and live authentically out in the world hoping to have the love and support of his family. We had the chance to sit down and talk with the film’s director Arturo Montenegro and we discussed the importance of films such as Todos Cambiamos, especially in Latin American countries.
CAR: Your previous work is so different from this film, what motivated you to create Todos Cambiamos?
AM: Basically what we reached for with the film was to give visibility to the fact that discrimination exists not only towards the Trans community but to the entire LGBTQ community. There are topics like marriage equality that have not passed in the legal sector in Latin America. This is our way of helping to start the conversation about a topic like this one that might be unknown in my country and many other countries in Latin America. Hopefully it will help to include these topics in government agendas so we have zero discrimination in a future.
CAR: How was the story born?
AM: The story was born because I wanted to make a drama. I have been doing a lot of comedies and I felt that this was a dramatic story that had not been told in Latin America, seeing how a family deals when one of its members is older and has to make decisions because they have been living with gender dysphoria and how difficult it can be when you have kids, are married and you live in a very conservative society that has a very strong religious value system. This motivated me because there are families out there like one. It was time to make some justice, and it’s a very strong story to tell because on one side we have the family of a transgender person but on the other side we have a society that does not understand and it criminalizes and judges others. I thought this was an important topic to talk about.
CAR: Do you think the film shows a reality or gives hope for transgender people as to how things can be?
AM: The majority of the cases are not like the one in the film but this is exactly what we wanted to present. We wanted to show a family that says, “We can talk about this and we are going to support you and love you” and that, to me, made for a wonderful story. There are plenty of films that present Transgender characters with addictions, driven to prostitution and yes, that is the unfortunate reality for some. We wanted to give a light of hope for a different possibility of life; presented as a “normal” thing in the sense that they could transition with the support of their families and also present a Trans women who has a job were she is also welcome to be herself. We wanted to show that love transcends gender. We love not only based on a persons gender but also a persons essence and how they evolve. The love that the family has for each other surpasses labels put on by society. Many Trans woman who have seen the film tell us that it gives them hope and a dream to have a “normal” life, a dignified life like anyone else.
CAR: Let’s talk about the movies success!
AM: The movie has just received an award in Holland from a foundation that deals with, and fights for human rights and equality in the world. The awards will be presented in March at the Roze Filmdagen Film Festival in Amsterdam. It is very interesting that this is happening with the film, I feel that we have to show where society should be heading, it’s not only important to know that Transgender people are part of society, but also learning that they are not monsters or defected as many people categorize them. They are human beings that deserve to be treated with respect and acceptance.
CAR: How about the films characters? Who is Federico?
AM: We get introduced to Federico, a responsible family man with kids who is prepared to face the corporate world but at the same time carries a heavy burden in his life which is not being able to transition because he’s a victim of a society that has taught him to negate who he really is. He is truly suffering and when he can’t take it anymore he decides that the only way out is to end his life but then realizes that there is another option: to stay alive for his family but also to live his truth. He wants to fight for his family (even if they don’t understand him) with the hope that some day they will come to accept him. The beauty of the film is that we get to see that happen, the family becomes united and transitions with her.
CAR: Who is Lizzie?
AM: Lizzie is the real person inside Federico, she has always been there and now has the drive to be present and be the entire woman she was meant to be; sexy, feminine, wear makeup, and be a successful business woman in the corporate world. She also dreams of having a future partner and to rebuild her life. At the end we see how she realizes her next mission is to be a grandmother and because of her passed life she has the potential to be one since she has sons. Independent of the gender, having grandkids to love as a grandmother as opposed to a grandfather and taking away the labels of society is something that anyone can dream about. Lizzie realizes that her battles will probably be for a lifetime, but now she is living as the women she was meant to be.
CAR: How important was it to make that character older and mature with a long life already lived?
AM: It was very important because it’s true that people think once you get to a certain age past 50, life has less importance and we wanted to show a rebirth after 50. We wanted to show that life does not end regardless of what age you transition, it continues and you have many more years ahead that are valuable and worth treasuring. We wanted the film to give homage to the older adults no matter if you are Transgender or not. We wanted to talk about how life can be fulfilling and adults have the right to live a happy life after leaving an old life behind.
CAR: How about Lizzie’s kids?
AM: This was also very important; to have the kids represent hope because they are a generation that is living more freely and open. They have grown up with more access to knowledge and topics like this one are clearer. For them, she was the same person they’ve always loved and they see it as a natural thing. In a certain scene, one of her sons tells Lizzie: “You look different” to which Lizzie answers, “Different how”? And her son responds with “You look much prettier”. This is her son’s way of saying “I love you how you are”.
For a complete schedule of films and to purchase tickets, please visit SDLatinoFilm.com
Cartelera LGBTQ es parte del Festival Latino de San Diego 2020
Por Cesar A Reyes
Ver nuestras historias reflejadas en la pantalla grande es algo que siempre nos llena de orgullo como latinos. Cada año, El Festival Latino de San Diego presenta historial de toda Latinoamérica pero también año con año da espacio a tener historias de nuestra comunidad LGBTQ representadas en la cartelera Somos que es parte del festival. Este es el segundo año que la cartelera LGBTQ usa su nuevo nombre Somos, en el 2019 para darle evolución y para demostrar que la cartelera daba voz a las diferentes historias dentro de nuestra comunidad, Cine Gay cambió su nombre a Somos, y este año la cartelera está más diversa que nunca para que cada parte de nuestra comunidad se vea reflejada. La diversidad de Somos no es sólo para que los miembros dentro de la comunidad se vean representados, también da visibilidad a estos sectores de nuestra comunidad, a la audiencia en general para que conozcan nuestras historias, los retos y triunfos que una persona LGBTQ tiene en sus vidas.
El Festival toma lugar en Marzo 12 al 22 en los Cines de AMC Fashion Valley 18. El Festival son 11 días celebrando en Cine, Arte y la Cultura Latina. Presentando más de 160 películas de Latinoamérica, Estados Unidos y España con sesiones de preguntas con cineastas que visitan el Festival expandiendo con un festival de comida y bebidas cada año. El Festival es organizado por Media Arts Center San Diego desde hace 26 años y tuvo sus inicios como un festival estudiantil enfocado en trabajos de estudiantes latinos sobre la experiencia latina. Desde ese tiempo para acá el festival se ha consagrado como uno de los más respetados Festivales de Cine Latino en el mundo. Media Art Center San Diego no es sólo el organizador del Festival sino también es una organización con diversos programas y servicios para apoyar a los cineastas amateurs e independientes. Con su locación Digital Gym en El Cajon Blvd en North Park las instalaciones ofrecen una sala de cine, centro de tecnología con cursos para jóvenes de comunidades marginadas para promover el uso de medios de comunicación como herramientas para hacer conciencia y cambio social con expresión artística desde hace 17+ años.
Este año Somos nos presenta aún mas diversidad en la cartelera. Con propuestas como Todos Cambiamos, una película de Pánama que nos presenta la vida de Federico Ponce, un padre de familia y señor de negocios, que se enfrenta con la difícil decisión de querer vivir su verdadera vida como Lizzie y lo que eso significa para su esposa e hijos.
Una historia que les tocará a muchos es Tu Me Manques de Bolivia que nos muestra como es conocer quien era tu hijo en verdad, después de que éste se quita la vida y su ex pareja te ayuda a descubrir una parte de ese hijo que tú no sabías y no querías comprender.
Aparte de propuestas fuertes en contenido que te hacen pensar, también, tenemos propuestas que demuestran el gran triunfo de vivir en tu libertad y honestidad de quién eres. El documentario estadounidense Gaytino! Made in México nos presenta la vida en sus propias palabras de Dan Guerrero, un reconocido director y productor de televisión y eventos culturales que nos cuenta su vida como chicano y hombre gay en los 50’. Su interacción en la historia chicana y la influencia que tuvieron su padre, el famoso compositor y músico Lalo Guerrero y su amigo de infancia el pintor Carlos Almaraz.
Estas tres películas es sólo una probadita de lo que el festival tiene para presentar en la cartelera Somos. Para horarios, fechas y boletos visita sdlatinofilm.com