EXCLUSIVE: The forthcoming film Lupe is a trifecta of an emotional drama, exploring the topics of family, immigration and being transgender. In the feature film debut by Andre Phillips and Charles Vuolo, we are introduced to the complex world of Rafael (Rafael Albarrán), a Cuban immigrant and boxer, struggling with their transgender identity while searching for their missing sister, Isabelle in New York City’s underground sex industry.

In the exclusive clip above, we see Rafael, who is now presenting as a woman, talking with Lana (Celia Harrison) and discussing their feelings for a man unaware of Rafael’s transgender status.

The film, which makes its world premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose March 8, dives deep into Rafael’s life as he tries to search for his missing long-lost sister Isabel (Lucerys Medina). As he begins to present as a transgender woman, he adds another layer to his narrative which becomes more complicated with his sister and his own gender identity. During a violent encounter in a brothel, Rafael comes face to face with Elsa (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.

In an effort to present an authentic portrayal of the transgender community, Phillips and Vuolo worked with the aforementioned Harrison and associate producer Kerry Michelle O’Brien, who both identify as transgender. Harrison’s scenes as Lana were unscripted, as the directors emphatically sought to retain Harrison’s voice and perspective.

The film was produced by Andrew McCarthy and Leigh Lanocha with cinematography by T. Acton Fitzgerald.

Watch the clip above.