PANAMA CITY – Marking first business on a world premiere at the burgeoning Panama Festival, which kicked off its third edition Thursday, Alfredo Calvino’s Brazil-based Habanero Film Sales has swooped on international rights to Annie Canavaggio’s “Breaking the Wave.”

Making its world bow Saturday, “Wave” is also written by Canavaggio, a London Film School alum.

Distinguished Brazilian director Vicente Ferraz (“I Am Cuba, the Siberian Mammoth,” “Road 47”) co-wrote and served as DP with Bolivar Andres handling water camera.

Canavaggio’s first feature after “Liza…como ella” and “Offside” – a short made at the London Film School and set humorously against the background of a crunch Brazil-England soccer match – “Wave” is a Panama-Brazil co-production, set up at Canavaggio’s Marina Productions and Rio de Janeiro’s Tres Mundo Producoes, founded by Ferraz and Costa Rica’s Isabel Martinez.

Set at Santa Catalina, a point break on Panama’s Pacific coast, and magnificently shot, for surfing aficionados “Wave” offers multiple money shots: Hazy 1970s docu-footage of Ricardo “Ponky” Icaza, a Panamanian surfer known on the Californian scene, at Santa Catalina, then a secret surfing paradise, power-riding widescreen right to left a seeming never-ending wave; El Cholito, one of the “Wave’s” three featured Panamanian surfers, repeating this angle, as a tribute, decades later.

“Wave” recounts three human stories, all turning on Santa Catalina locals: Alejandro “El Cholito” Alfonso, 34, who wins a world championship, is a local legend, has nine children, lives from one job to the next, was too wild – he smoke, drank before competitions for six-or-seven years, he said – to land a brand deal; Deivis Godoy, a top competitor but poor and black, who also fails to attract sponsors; Juan Carlos “Oli” Gonzalez, just 18, Santa Catalina’s big hope, surfing since a child.

Oli has the right stuff, and discipline, lands a Quicksilver sponsorship, becomes the first Panamanian to take a silver medal in the world champion category at May 2013’s ISA World Surfing Games, which were held – appropriately – in Santa Catalina.

But “Breaking the Wave” “isn’t really a film about surfing, but about people who love surf but have to live their lives,” Habanero’s Calvino said.

It is “a psycho-social documentary,” Canavaggio said, where it protagonists “happen to surf.”

As befits a former MBA grad at the Central American Institute of Business Administration, it nails the economic models in the sport and what they say about the surfers’ future.

Surfing is one of the few sports in which Panamanians, currently mostly from Santa Catalina, can compete at a world-class level. “Not just Americans, Latinos can excel at this sport,” “Oli” told Variety.

But costs can outrun competition prize coin; even a sponsor deal can be just subsistence money.

“Oli” says in the film that he’d like to earn enough money to buy his parents a house; he’s concerned that his brothers and sisters get a good education. “El Cholito” and “Oli,” his nephew, would like to create a surfing school, with clinics for Panama’s new generation of surfers, but they’d need state support to cover start-up costs, “El Cholito” added.

“For me, making this film was about the social part, changing the social context a little. I’d like more justice, people to access education, health services,” Canavaggio said at the Panama Festival.

“But the first thing we need is education. If that comes, everything else will follow,” she added.

“Breaking the Wave” will be released in six cinema theaters in Panama in September, said Martinez.