“AQUARIUS,” from Brazil’s Kleber Mendonça Filho took the People’s Choice Copa Airlines Audience Award for best Ibero-American fiction feature, at Panama’s International Film Festival (IFF).
Delfina Vidal’s “La Matamoros” was best picture in the key Central America and Caribbean competition, and “Bellas de Noche” won best documentary.
“Cocote,” by Dominican Republic director Nelson Carlo dos Santos and Panama music documentary “Una Noche de Calypso,” from Argentine director Fernando Munoz were joint winners of the 3rd Primera Mirada, announced during the closing ceremony of IFF on Wednesday April 5.
Each film will receive a $7,500 award – a 50/50 split of the sidebar’s total prize. “Cocote” will screen at the Cannes Film Market and its producers receive Cannes Film Festival accreditation, full travel and accommodation reports Variery magazine.
“Cocote” turns on an Evangelical Christian who attends the burial of his father in his hometown, where he has to participate in religious cults that clash with his own beliefs. “Calypso” is about a once famous Calypso band that is getting together again.
The other two projects in competition were “Trinidad and Tobago filmmaker Mariel Brown’ “Unfinished Sentences,” about a daughter coming to terms with the death of her father and Puerto Rican Ari Maniel Cruz’s “Who are You?” -about a distinguished doctor whose wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Starring Sonia Braga as a moneyed widow who resists a real-estate development company’s pressure to abandon her home, “Aquarius” was always one of the frontrunners of Ibero-American films at IFF Panama, well-received at Cannes and a follow-up to “Neighboring Sounds” that is “a more subtle film but no less mature,” according to Variety.
A prize for Vidal’s women’s rights leader portrait “La Matamoros” marks welcome recognition for an emerging film maker whose “Caja 25,” screened at the IFF Panama in 2015, delivered a fresh take on Panama-U.S. relations.
Portraying the past and present of Mexico’s top ‘70s/80s showgirls. “Bellas de Noche” snagged a Morelia best documentary plaudit, a theatrical bow from exhibition giant Cinepolis, “and a Netflix pick-up. Produced by Cinepantera and Detalle Films, two top Mexican outfits, it marks director Maria Jose Cuevas’ maiden feature.
A total of 48 eligible films were submitted to the Primera Mirada competition this year – compared to 46 in 2016 and 32 in 2015.
The projects were evaluated by a three-person jury formed by Julio Hernandez Cordon, director of “Behind There’s Lightning” and 2015 Primera Mirada winner with “I Promise You Anarchy, Carlos A. Gutiérrez, of New York non-profit media arts organization Cinema Tropical: and Virgine Devesa, co-founder of Paris-based independent sales company, Alpha Violet.
This was the first year that the Inter-American Development Bank was involved in Primera Mirada, by contributing the $15,000 prize money.
IFF Panama’s director Pituka Ortega Heilbron said the joint-prize decision was due to such a strong and inspiring set of films.
“This is quite extraordinary what’s happening. The fact that businesses are becoming involved in the development of a burgeoning industry.”
She added: “The IDB is tapping into the fact that film is such a powerful medium for these countries,” says Heilbron. “Film is not just an industry. It has a tremendous educational impact. Film is an identity builder.”
During the closing ceremony, it was also announced that the IDB is launching a short film competition in Panama for 3-5 minute videos, that can be produced in any format, from cell phone to animation. “They want to be super flexible in the format because they want to open up the creative juices of the local talent,” explained Heilbron.
Toronto TIFF programmer Diana Sanchez, artistic director of Primera Mirada and IFF Panama, said filmmakers received lots of feedback, and in many cases it was the first time that the projects were ever shown to an audience beyond the core technical team.
“The filmmakers have been hanging out and talking with each other, often coming up with new ideas to complete their films,” she added.
“This year, we’ve reinforced the industry dimension of the festival, through a strong selection of films in Primera Mirada and the launch of the Campus Latino initiative, in conjunction with the Goethe Institut in Mexico,” she said
“Since we launched the Festival in 2012, our objective has been to build a major industry meeting-place for Latin American filmmakers, especially those from Central America and the Caribbean, and we’re extremely happy with our increasingly strong industry presence.”