Panama Film Festival Unveils Centerpiece 2017 Primera Mirada Slate

Julio Hernandez Cordon
Copyright: Martin Dale

Four films compete in IFF Panama’s work-in-progress sidebar

The third edition of the Panama Film Festival’s Primera Mirada pix-in-post sidebar has selected four films – from the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Puerto Rico- from a total of 48 films submitted from the Central America and the Caribbean.

Primera Mirada is particularly important for the region’s filmmakers who often work miracles to get their projects off the ground and often desperately require post-production completion finance. The number of films submitted to the competition has risen progressively – with 32 films in 2015, 46 in 2016 and 48 this year.

The sidebar attracts leading international sales agents to its screenings – projects will be screened in exclusive private sessions for sales agents, distributors, and film festival programmers – and has served as an important springboard for selected projects.

2015’s Primera Mirada winner, “I Promise You Anarchy,” by Guatemalan director Julio Hernandez Cordon, had its world premiere at Locarno a few months later, followed by screenings in Toronto, San Sebastian and Panama. This year, he is one of Primera Mirada’s three jury members and will also be screening his sixth feature, “Behind There’s Lightning,” that bowed at Rotterdam.

“It’s an excellent film,” said IFF Panama’s artistic director Diana Sanchez. “I’m so impressed with his development as a filmmaker.”

Primera Mirada’s other two jury members are Carlos A Gutiérrez, of New York non-profit media arts organization Cinema Tropical, and Virginie Devesa, co-founder of Paris-based independent sales company, Alpha Violet.

Sales agents attending Primera Mirada screenings include Gabor Greiner, head of acquisitions at Berlin-based sales agent Films Boutique, Pierre Menahem, co-founder of Paris-based sales company Still Moving, and Alfredo Calvino from Brazil’s Habanero Film Sales.

“There are other work-in-progress competitions in the region, including at Guatemala’s Icaro fest and Havana’s Cinema in Progress sidebar, but our initiative has really galvanized the interest of the region’s filmmakers,” said Sanchez.

“Primera Mirada is a key part of our strategy to reinforce the industry dimension of our fest,” added IFF Panama director Pituka Ortega. “We’ve been amazed by the response over the last three editions and we’re very, very proud of this year’s four selected films. What we have found is that even though there is evidence of a strong influence from world cinema in films from the region, once this is translated to the filmmakers’ own stories the result is a unique cinematic language that is rich, powerful and poetic.”

Trinidad and Tobago filmmaker Mariel Brown will screen project “Unfinished Sentences,” a highly personal picture about a daughter coming to terms with the death of her father.

Puerto Rican helmer Arí Maniel Cruz, who attended Panama in 2016 with “Before the Rooster Crows” will screen his new feature film, “¿Quién eres tú?” (Who Are You?), about a distinguished doctor whose wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The film portrays both the personal drama and political situation in Puerto Rico.

Dominican director Nelson Carlo dos Santos will compete with “Cocote” about 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.

From Panama, Fernando Munoz will screen “Una Noche de Calypso” about a once famous calypso band that is getting together again. The project was also featured in the WIP sidebar in Havana, where it won the Aracne DC Post-Production Prize.

Said Sanchez: “In the main, the filmmakers have chosen to set their stories in fascinating and unusual, remote locations, with strong characters and a very distinctive color scheme that reflects the vibrancy of the region.”

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