By Michelle Robin
Thousands of Panama film buffs who have been subject to a diet of Hollywood blockbusters over the years, flocked to the Cinemark movie complex on the weekend to feast on nouveau film cuisine.
Their appetites were titillated with a menu of over 50 quality films from 26 countries courtesy of Panama’s first International Film Festival, under the direction of master chef, Henk Van Der Kolk whose belief in offering something exciting and new at the right price, was borne out in the first three days, as many who had not booked ahead, found they had to make a second or third choice.
This was not Henk’s first attempt at taking the reins of a chariot of fire. His first festival exposure came in Toronto some 38 years ago when with a couple of fellow film makers he launched what was later to be known as TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival).
In its first year the Toronto event gained little support from sponsors, government or shakers and movers in the film industry. But, by year two, media recognition of the fledgling event began to attract recognition, and today TIFF is one of the most prestigious happenings in the film world where film producers, directors actors and moguls vie to trot their stuff.
While the volume turn out for quality showings at the incredibly bargain price of $6 ($3 for jubilados) was in the film complex at MultiCentro others opted for the upscale red carpet performances at the Teatro Nacional in Casco Viejo where they were able to rub shoulders with film makers and performers.
Those of more limited means or with a desire to enjoy their feasting under the stars, were not forgotten. The festival includes free showings at Centennial Park, a short distance downhill from the Theater..
It seems unlikely that Cinemark has seen such crowds lining up for every movie, throughout the day, since its recent face lift. The feeling of being part of “something big” was everywhere as audience members swopped stories with friends and strangers of quality films they had sampled, or were to see. By Sunday night there were those who had ticked off six or more like attendees with a dance card at a coming out ball. And there are still three days to go.
Boosting the audiences on Friday and Saturday was a contingent of Canadians, with Ambassador Sylvia Cesarotto, her husband Malcom Britto and embassy staff who rallied to support two films: the Quebec production, Mr Lazahar and the Canadian-German film directed by David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method.
The group was joined by James Woolford who will soon be taking up his post as Panama’s Consul General in Toronto.
After the feast it may be back to a sparse diet of classic films, but with the recently introduced law setting quotas of films for showing by cinema chains, we can at least expect to see sample some similar quality productions from Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala and elsewhere that are exciting audiences this week.
If you haven’t yet made a trip to Cinemark, check out the offerings on the IFF (International Film Festival) website, and book your tickets fast. You can reserve them ahead at MultiCentro.