WHEN IFF PANAMA launched in 2012, the Panamanian film industry was slowly ticking over and the link between Panama and the world of cinema was limited to the occasional U.S. or international feature film shot in the country.
But over the past 5 years, under fest director, Pituka Ortega Heilbron and artistic director, Diana Sanchez, IFF Panama has secured its place as, without doubt, one of the most important festivals in Central America and the Caribbean reports Variety magazine Along the way the fest has also helped consolidate the nascent Panamanian film industry.
By building a bridge between Central America and the Caribbean, the festival has also helped create a critical mass of films and filmmakers in the region which is feeding into new development.
These achievements were particularly evident at this year’s 6th edition, as highlighted an increased industry presence and attraction of key filmmakers from throughout Latin America-
The 3rd Primera Mirada sidebar has already established itself as one of the region’s most prestigious pix-in-post sidebars, screen new films by some of the region’s most dynamic filmmakers.
This year, the inaugural Campus Latino, organized by the Panama Film Festival, Documentary Campus and the Goethe Institut Mexico brought 13 projects and over 20 filmmakers to the fest.
The festival also increased its educational program in 2017, including sold-out sessions in Teatro Balboa’s 1,300-seater cinema, and master classes with leading film professionals such as art director Eugenio Caballero (“Pan’s Labyrinth”).
Documentary film production was highlighted by a documentary film funding panel and Campus Latino workshop, focuses on doc projects from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Another panel homed in on the fine line between documentaries and fiction with Chilean documentary filmmaker, Maite Alberdi, Colombia’s Lucia Carreras and Panama’s Ana Endara.
Alberdi says that instead of a fusion between documentary and fiction there are currently two very highly distinct trends: Some fiction filmmakers adopt a rougher approach to make their films look more realistic and closer to life; several doc directors, including herself, are doing exactly the inverse, using careful framing and editing to achieve an almost-fiction look to their work, as in her recent Down’s syndrome docu, “The Grownups.”
Alberdi is currently developing what she calls a film noir documentary, “The Mole Agent,” about a private detective, that she will shoot in September, she said that in terms of the photography and visual style it will look like a classic detective film, but will be a completely true-life story. “I always loved detective films,” she said. “But I never found a documentary with a private detective.”
IFF Panama’s Cine en el Barrio section,another 2017 departure, organized three open-air screenings in different neighborhoods of Panama City among them Lucia Carreras’s “Tamara & Ladybug.” Carreras said that she is a big fan of such events, which almost operate like a parallel festival, recalling a presentation she made at Spain’s Huelva Festival in the local jail, which she describes as “another great opportunity to show films to a different audience that normally doesn’t have the chance to see that kind of cinema.”