“EVERYBODY CHANGES” (“TODOS CAMBIAMOS)”
A Transgender Father Comes Out
From Panama comes “Everybody Changes” a delightful family drama and Panama’s candidate for the Oscars in the international feature film category. Director Arturo Montenegro introduces us to the Ponces, a seemingly perfect family that lives in the small town of Bambito, Panama. Federico (Arantxa de Juan, Lizzie) is a successful father, his wife, Carol (Gaby Gnazzo) is the loving mother of three lovely children. However, even with seeming to be so perfect, husband and wife share a secret. Lizzie is also involved in their relationship but not as might expect. Lizzie is Federico dressed up as a woman. This began as a fun time but it soon reflected something much deeper and that is in Federico’s struggle to keep his family together and save his own life. What this means is that he chooses to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. This changes everything for the as well as for the quiet little town they live in.
It’s not a new idea on film but here it is presented beautifully as we watch the family deal with Frederico’s becoming a woman. On the surface, we might feel we are watching a film about a transgender person looking to be who he really is but the theme is much deeper. We are looking at how minorities are treated by society and the Ponce family becomes a microcosm for the larger and outside world. “Everybody Changes” challenges human and civil rights. Montenegro sees society that does not respect all of its citizen and it needs to open up and become more inclusive. The Ponce family is one filled with love and while it might be difficult to deal with this major change, we see that with love, everything is possible.
We explore here the themes of family and acceptance or rejection, by looking at it through the history of a transsexual person. In Panama, there is not much visibility of transgenders and how this relates to family life while outside the family unit, society has its prejudices. In Panama, I understand, there are many who are anti-transsexuality so what we really see in this film is the chance to be open, to speak openly and not to be afraid to do so. We have a family in which the members are more concerned with what holds them together rather than what separates them. It is one of the new families that leaves behind the definition of traditional. We see that there is a place for everyone in society and that everyone has to right to be respected and valued regardless of gender classification. We do not feel pressure or imposition but rather we feel the need to talk about what we see here and thus help all members of society to feel that they have a part in it.
I understand that director Montenegro did a great deal of research on transsexuality and much of what was learned was used in the writing of the screenplay. Montenegro has stated, “I learned that love is the best tool a family has for survival. I learned that with the search for knowledge, prejudices and discrimination are lost. ”
It has not been easy to get his film made. I read that there were 3,700 people who signed for the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, to “rate the controversial film as not recommended for minors.” I find this interesting since there are children in the film. Those against the film claim that sex change is not possible and that it is “mental disorders according to the American Psychiatric Association”. We know this not to be true. Yet these nay-sayers managed to make the following request: “We ask the Government to ensure the integrity of minors under a tsunami of transgender propaganda”.
Many believe they already know what they are going to see but the opposite is true. I loved the film and found it to be excellent in all of its aspects from characters, acting, plot, etc. More than that, it is an educative experience. We can only hope what Montenegro wishes for– “a society open to positive changes for all, especially for minorities that are in permanent risk.” DO NOT miss “Everybody Changes”.