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IFF Panama: ‘Shrew’s Nest’ Brings a Darker Touch to Panama

Horror masters give Panamanian audiences a lesson in terror

PANAMA – Every self-respecting film festival needs a healthy dose of horror or terror, and Panama is no exception.

Offering Panamanian audiences a fright night experience is “Shrew’s Nest” (“Musarañas”), the critically acclaimed feature debut of Mexico’s Esteban Roel and Spain’s Juanfer Andrés, both of whom continue to hold down their day jobs as respected professors of film at the Instituto del Cine Madrid. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and opened in Spain in December, since which it has been a firm audience favorite on the festival circuit.

Although “Shrew’s Nest” is the duo’s first feature, they had already made a name for themselves after they co-directed the short “036,” which picked up numerous international awards and received over 2 million views on YouTube.

“‘Shrew’s Nest’ started life as a short that had been made by one of our students,” Roel explains. “Juanfer and I felt is could and deserved to be expanded into a feature. And our student was our d.p. on the film.”

As professors of film, they knew exactly the challenges they would face, especially in terms of financing and budget, and as a result carefully storyboarded the film, which is mainly set within the confines of one aprtment. Good planning allowed them to shoot the entire movie in just 22 days.

Set in the 1950s, “Shrew’s Nest” tells the story of Montse, who has been minding her little sister ever since they were children and their mother died and father deserted them. Now adults, the sisters share an apartment that the hollow-eyed, agoraphobic Montse cannot bring herself to leave— while Montse’s pretty little sister can’t wait to escape. When a neighbor is cripplingly injured outside her door, Montse takes it upon herself to nurse him back to health. The presence of this handsome but helpless man fractures the sisters’ already fragile lifestyle, drawing the attention of authorities, prompting a litany of lies, and straining tensions until long-held secrets — and bloody reprisals— begin.

The film found its cheerleader and producer in Spain’s cult director and producer Alex de la Iglesia, one of the men who has helped establish Spain’s reputation for interesting and more challenging horror films.

The duo already have the skeleton of an idea and script for their next project, which will also count on the support of Iglesia, while American producers have been knocking on their door after seeing “Shrew’s Nest.” Yet the duo remain grounded and seem happy to continue to learn how to walk — and use their industry knowledge — before they run.

Asked what their students thought of their professors’ work, the two men laugh. “‘Not bad!’ seemed to be the general reaction,” Roel reveals. “But your students are your fiercest critics!”

As well as meeting and answering questions from the festival audiences about “Shrew’s Nest,” Roel and Andrés also found time in Panama to don their teacher’s hats to give a two day Acting for Film master class for Panamanian actors.

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