Panama film maker plans “president” TV series

Abner Benaim

By Margot Thomas

THE MOTTLED history  of Panama’s presidents and their act-alikes around Latin America leaves me wondering why  a TV series on the genre  has been so long in the making.

There are scenarios  a-plenty  loaded with skullduggery, sex, violence  and even humor (think Gucci dog and duro dollars)  in the local corridors of power going back no further than the  turn of the century.

Throw in the CIA and the perpetual stain of greed and corruption , and there’s enough material to challenge even  the world’s longest running soap, Coronation Street.

Now in the midst of this year’s International Film Festival, Abner Benaim, one of Panama’s leading film makers  has told Variety magazine of his upcoming  TV series  “El Presidente”  with a black comedy overlay

Benaim’s whose 2014 documentary “Invasion,” was Panama’s 2016 Academy Award entry.  is currently preparing a  the 13-part  President series as well as a new fiction feature “Cathedral Plaza ”. In between  he is   completing a 90-minute music documentary: “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name,” which will be released  at year end.

All three projects are aimed at the international market: “I don’t believe in making films just for Panama,” Benaim told Variety.

“It’s not feasible economically. It’s too small a market. You need to aim at least for Latin America.”

Benaim is particularly interested by the contrast between rich and poor in Latin America, and explores this question from multiple perspectives, including crime drama in “El Presidente,” a thriller-drama in “Plaza,” and music in the “Ruben Blades” documentary.

“El Presidente” is co-penned by Benaim and Papus Von Saenger, who also co-wrote his first feature, “Chance.””

The series is aimed at payTV and VOD platforms such as Netflix and is based on politicians in the region who run mafio-cracies.

“It’s a fun show, with lots of dark comedy,” said Benaim. “But it’s also got a very sharp edge, using comedy to point out the injustices that abound and the absurdity of what has become the norm for the political system in Latin America.”

Benaim says they are currently in talks with possible partners for the Latin American market who believe in original content and are ready to support a project that could generate controversy – “Although it’s all fiction, the fact that it’s inspired by real situations and people scares some people away,” he said.

“The source of the material is endless! Every day in every newspaper, there is an outrageous story about some political or corporate scandal in our countries,” he remarked.