PANAMA CITY — The screening of Panamanian drama “Salsipuedes,” the feature debut of Ricardo Aguilar Navarro and Manolito Rodriguez, was one of the high-points of the 5th Panama International Film Festival, with an audience of 1,100 packing out Panama City’s Teatro Balboa.
In IFF Panama’s closing ceremony the pic received the Audience Award for Best Central American and Caribbean film.
The film tells the story of Andrés who moved to Washington State aged 10 but returns to his local neighborhood in Panama City, when aged 20, upon hearing about the death of his grandfather. At the funeral, he reunites with his father who is in prison, but allowed out for the funeral. At the funeral he escapes, and Andrés decides to stay home to protect his father. The pic then jumps back and forth between the past and present, through a series of flashbacks that explore the relationship between grandfather, father and son.
Rodriguez says that the original inspiration for the story came from the double album, “Maestra Vida,” by Panamanian singer Ruben Blades, that tells of a story between grandfather, father and son in a local neighborhood. The project was originally conceived as a 30-episode TV series.
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Production was shot in several neighborhoods in Panama City and involved thousands of extras. The main neighborhood was Chorrillo – that was devastated during the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama and has been seen by many as a no-go zone since then.
“Chorillo is the zone that most suffered during the 1989 invasion,” said Rodriguez. “It was transformed into an area of delinquency, marginality and criminality after being destroyed. I am Cuban. When I first came to Panama many years ago, people told me not to go there. But I soon found out that it’s a fascinating neighborhood with many untold stories.”
Film title “Salsipuedes” is the name of a street in Panama City, close to Chorillo, and literally means “Leave if you can.” But the filmmakers hope that the pic will return pride to the neighborhood, because they say that you find popular culture that you don’t find anywhere else.
The pic’s budget is $850,000. The filmmakers received funding from the Panamanian film fund, Corporacion Medcom, the City of Knowledge project that occupies a former military base, and Thrifty Rentacar.
Lensing is by Panamianam ace cinematographer Carlos Arango de Montis who was nominated for an Academy Award for 2012 Indonesian documentary film “The Act of Killing” about the Indonesian killings of 1965-66. The pic will attend the Cannes Film Market as part of a Panamanian representation of recent moviemaking, and will participate in the Havana Int’l Film Festival. It will bow in Panama on more than 20 screens, in May.