Next time you’re around Montevideo, you might find your car being parked by an unassuming transgender woman with the faintest hint of a Nicaraguan accent. And you probably won’t think twice about it. We’ve all got places to go, and aside from a friendly smile or a handshake, few people would take the time to really get to know the person parking their car. But at least in the case of Stephania – that Montevidean parking attendant of Nicaraguan descent – we’d be doing ourselves a great disservice. Thankfully, a veteran filmmaker named Aldo Garay did us the favor of picking up a camera and letting Stephania tell her extraordinary story. The result is the ironically-titled feature documentary El hombre nuevo (The New Man).
Born Roberto Mirza Curbelo, Stephania spent her preteen years carrying a rifle through the jungle as a soldier in the Sandinista Revolution. During that time, she fought alongside revolutionaries from Uruguay’s leftist Tupamaro Liberation Movement who were aiding with the revolutionary cause, and was eventually adopted by a Uruguayan couple who brought her back to Montevideo. There she struggled with a life of violence, prostitution, and discrimination as she ultimately transformed into her true feminine self.
The beautifully photographed trailer shows us Stephania in her daily milieu, looking over photos and watching old home videos before contacting some of her old family members in Nicaragua. As things progress, it seems Stephania and Garay’s true mission is to return to Stephania’s place of birth and introduce her true self to the loved ones from whom she had been separated for so long. Mixing fly-on-the-wall observational footage, staged sequences, and informal interviews with Stephania, El hombre nuevo promises to be a fascinating look into a life lived at the precarious intersection of politics and gender identity.