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October 13, 2019 @ 1:30 pm
Directed by Andre Phillips and Charles Vuolo | USA | 77 MIN
LUPE follows Rafael (portrayed by Rafael Albarrán), a young Cuban immigrant searching for their long-lost sister Isabel (portrayed by Lucerys Medina) in New York City. Believing Isabel to have fallen into a life of prostitution, Rafael seeks to find and liberate her. Rafael is a trained boxer, and searching New York City’s gritty underworld often turns bloody. During a violent encounter in a brothel, Rafael comes face to face with Elsa (portrayed by Christine Rosario Lawrence), a woman from their shared past in rural, poverty-stricken Cuba. Pulling Elsa from her wretched environment, Rafael hopes that she can help in the search for Isabel.
Throughout a bitter New York winter, Rafael and Elsa reminisce about their past in Cuba with Isabel, where they lived together as an idiosyncratic family. As they endure the winter, Elsa also learns that Rafael is concealing a transgender identity. With the exception of discreet nightly outings where Rafael dresses in femme and embraces their true self, Rafael has largely suppressed who they truly are, instead prioritizing the search for Isabel. During this time Rafael also cultivates a deep friendship with Lana (portrayed by transgender performer Celia Harrison). Together Rafael and Lana navigate a challenging world that doesn’t yet recognize their gender identities. Throughout the film, Lana serves as both friend and mentor to Rafael, while also undergoing her own challenging journey.
Additionally, LUPE depicts Rafael’s relationship with Arun (portrayed by Kadeem Henry), a boxing student for whom Rafael conceals hidden affections. This complex and doomed relationship becomes a break-point for Rafael’s journey of personal discovery, as well as the film’s central arc.
Note: LUPE was written and directed with consultation from Celia Harrison, a transgender artist. Celia also plays the role of Lana, the protagonist’s friend, and advisor. All of Celia’s scenes were unscripted. The directors emphatically sought to retain Celia’s voice and perspective.