IFF Panamá 2018 Bigger Than Ever

Filmmakers and fans are gearing up for the seventh International Film Festival of Panama, to be held this year April 5-11 in the Panamanian capital.

By Roberto Quintero
Photos:Courtesy IFF Panamá

This year’s International Film Festival of Panama is ready to roll. Lovers of the seventh art will once again enjoy first-class programming, including several current award-winning films and the best of the Ibero-American film industry.

Among the films being screened is Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, written and directed by Sebastián Lelio and starring Daniela Vega. The film tells the story of Marina, a transsexual woman who faces the sudden death of Orlando, her partner, twenty years her senior. But Orlando’s family prevents Marina from mourning in peace, making her the target of their reproaches, prejudices, and violence. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear for best script and the Teddy Award, for the best in LGBT cinema. Since then, the film has garnered a number of awards from the festivals where it has screened, including San Sebastian, Lima, and Havana.

Also screening at the IFF Panama is The Square, a fiction film by director Ruben Östlund that won the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category (as was The Fantastic Woman). Christian, the film’s main character, is a respected curator of a contemporary art museum in Stockholm. While preparing a new exhibition called “The Square,” his life begins to unravel, dragging him and the entire museum into an existential crisis.

Another Oscar nominee in the programming is The Insult, a co-production of France and Lebanon. The film takes place in Beirut and follows the conflict between Toni, a Lebanese Christian, and Yasser, a Palestinian refugee, whose argument over a simple plumbing problem escalates to a shouting match, and ends with Yasser insulting Toni. Toni’s ego is hurt and he decides to file a formal complaint, which spirals out of control. A long and very public trial ensues, and Palestinians and Lebanese Christians take advantage of the opportunity to display their mutual enmity. The film was part of the official competition at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, where it garnered several nominations.

The Panamanian movie Decembers will have its world premiere at IFF Panama. The film, by director Enrique Castro, reflects on the value of images. It tells the story of a young photographer who decided to document the U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989, a decision that cost him his life and caused the ongoing mourning of the three loved ones who survived him. Ten years after the photographer’s death, Panama has forgotten the victims of the attack and is preparing to receive an interoceanic canal from the same country that invaded it. The protagonist makes a last effort to guide his son, his wife, and his mother towards an uncomfortable reconciliation.

Among the titles already announced by festival organizers are two Latin American films with family dramas at the center: The Family, by Venezuelan director Gustavo Rondón Córdova, about a father and son fleeing the violence that plagues their neighborhood in Caracas, and April’s Daughters, by Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco, about a pregnant teenager and her older sister who are forced to seek help from their mother, April, who agrees to lend a hand but ends up demonstrating why her daughters would have preferred to keep her out of it.

Guests, Workshops, and New Theaters

Mexican documentary filmmaker Everardo González is among the guests participating in the event. He will present his documentary, Devil’s Freedom, which uses the testimonies of victims and victimizers to explore how violence in México has made its way into the collective unconscious. Considered one of the genre’s most significant Latin American voices, the filmmaker will also be conducting the workshop “Developing a Documentary Project for the International Market,” aimed at filmmakers from México, Central America, and the Caribbean who have projects in the development stage. The initiative, which is part of the 2018 IFF Panama’s educational program, will take place April 8-10, with support from the Goethe-Institut Mexiko. Other noteworthy visitors to the Panamanian capital for the festival are Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, and Laura Michalchyshyn, executive producer and co-founder of Sundance Productions.

New this year are the attractive tourist packages being offered by the International Film Festival of Panama, Copa Airlines, and Allegro Tours to lure movie lovers from all over Latin America. The Festival has also announced the incorporation of more cinemas to allow for more screenings in response to the increase in audiences in recent years.

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