Taboo-breaking film from Panama wins Hivos Free to be Me Award

March 19, 2020

“Todos Cambiamos” (Everyone Changes) is a bold film that breaks taboos about gender identity and acceptance in Panama’s macho culture. The film was going to be screened for the first time in the Netherlands at the Pink Film Days, and its director Arturo Montenegro was to receive the Hivos Free to be Me Award. Unfortunately, this was not possible because the film festival had to be cancelled. But we’ll make sure the prize gets to him.

In Todos Cambiamos, father Federico comes out as Lizzie, a trans woman. The film shows the challenges facing Lizzie and her family and tells a positive story about the pathway to acceptance and being yourself. This represents an unusual and daring step in a conservative Catholic country like Panama. With his film, director Arturo Montenegro wants to open up an unspoken topic to the public. The fact that the film was submitted to the Oscars in 2019 on behalf of Panama is a measure of his success.

As Arturo Montenegro explains, “The film is about minorities, and in particular one that is constantly being attacked. Transgender people have human and civil rights, just like everyone else. As a society we must be more respectful and inclusive of that. With this film I want to show the story of a loving family, and I want to make people aware that it can be done in this way.”

Montenegro has made several successful films in Panama in the last several years. But Todos Cambiamos was the first time he tackled a more daring subject, which brought the film to the attention of countries outside Panama.

Free to be Me Award

Todos Cambiamos is the winner of Hivos’ 2020 Free to be Me Award. The prize distinguishes a film that significantly contributes to the acceptance of LGBT people in a country where there is little room for diversity. It is a token of appreciation for the filmmaker and gives the film a larger stage. In countries where freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted, filmmakers must be able to make their voices heard.

We believe in a world where you are free to be your true self and love whomever you want. That is why we work for equal rights for LGBT people and freedom of identity in more than 25 countries. We support courageous activists and their organizations that lead the fight for more acceptance and visibility. Because the more people stand up to discrimination, the stronger the position of LGBT persons becomes.