By Dafydd Young
April 26 to May 2 is going to be a busy time for Panama film buffs as they try to figure out how many of the 50 films from around the world they can see at the first staging of the International Film Festival (IFF).
The Festival has released a list of 50 films that will be screened over the week They include entries from Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Portugal and Argentina that have already received awards at at some of the most prestigious film festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and San Sebastian.
The official release of Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead), a satirical horror movie that won an award at the Havana International Film Festival, brings with it an irreverent sense of humor.
The screen story of controversial Brazilian soccer star Heleno de Freitas will be a “red carpet” feature along with one of last year´s most award-winning films, Pablo Giorgelli´s Las Acacias (The Acacias) from Argentina. and the Guatemalan offering Distancia (Distance), Sergio Ramírez's directorial debut.
"The screening 50 films with awards from the world´s most prestigious festivals, an accomplishment that will help drive the country to become a main tourist and cultural attraction in the region" says Festival director Henk Van Der Kolk.
The festival will also bring an impressive selection of movie shakers and movers including stars, directors and producers.
It will be a good lift off for the festival’s aim of disseminating the best international films in Panama while supporting the promotion of culture in the country and fostering the development of local industries and promoting film education.
It’s a hefty ambition, but Henk has done it before. As a co-founder of the Toronto International Film Festival 38 years ago, he watched it grow to become one of the world’s most prestigious film events, bringing millions of dollars into the local economy.
Meanwhile Hollywood film producer, Raffaella De Laurentiis, believes the country is an ideal venue for filmmaking. She is well known as the producer of such screen hits as Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and , David Lynch, The Last Legion, with Colin Firth, and Aishwarya Ray, and The Forbidden Kingdom with Jet Li and Jackie Chan. De Laurentiis praised the initiative to hold a film festival in Panama, destined to become a cultural junction in the region and a platform for new offerings to the world of cinema.
The producer is and honorary member of the Board of Directors of Panama IFF and daughter of legendary filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis and renowned actress Silvana Mangano.