“A Fantastic Woman”  opens fantastic IFF lineup

Daniela Vega

By Margot Thomas

A SOLD-OUT audience packed the 1,200 Teatro Balboa for the opening ceremony of Panama’s  7th  International  Film Festival, IFF. and the showing of  Oscar  Best Foreign Film winner, Sebastián Lelio’s  “A Fantastic Woman. attended by leading actress, Daniela Vega.

This year IFF is presenting  75 films from 51 countries, including two world premieres. bringing the total since the 2012 launch involving Toronto International  TIFF founder Henk Van Der Kolk to over 4,300 films.

Director Pituka Ortega Heilbron described the festival as an intimate event where people meet people and   with  “extraordinary films, extraordinary guests, a passionate audience and a hopeful future for the cinema of our region.”

With more than 10% of the program is occupied by Panamanian films.  “The local industry is growing and we are ecstatic to be its platform.

The Cine en el Barrio” tradition created in the festival’s first year with free open-air screenings for the more disadvantaged sections of the community will continue.

Tourism boost
Variety Magazine describes  IFF Panama as one of Panama’s biggest cultural events and “its brand has been estimated to be worth $20 million, with a direct impact of $16 million on the local economy, and a significant multiplier effect in terms of raising the country’s international profile and attracting tourism.”

This year’s edition includes a notable line-up of films with strong female leads, including

A Fantastic Woman, and titles such as Laura Mora Ortega’s thriller Killing Jesus, Marcela Said’s The Dogs, Gustavo Salmerón’s comedy Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle Carla Simon’s autobiographic debut Summer 1993, Alexandra Latishev’s Medea and Anahí Berneri’s prostitution drama, Alanis, which won best director at San Sebastian.

Eight Panamanian films will be screened during the festival which runs to April 11 and, closes with Panama filmmaker – Abner Benaim’s docu-feature about Ruben Blades,   celebrated  Panama singer and actor, erstwhile politician and maybe presidential candidate: Ruben Blades Is Not My Name.

Other Panamanian pics take in Enrique Castro Rios’ Decembers, which has its world premiere Saturday evening and includes powerful archive footage of the U.S. military invasion of Panama; Christian Escobar’s culinary doc-feature, T’ACH, and two films by Alberto Serra – sex-trafficking drama Without Voice,and soccer film, The Strength of the Ball.

Also flying the flag for Panama is Carlos Aguilar Navarro’s boxing pic, Panama Al BrownWhen the Fist Opens and Fernando Muñoz’s music documentary, Calypso Night.

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