PANAMA CITY — Laura Mora’s Colombian vengeance drama “Killing Jesus” won the Copa Airlines Audience Award for best Ibero-American fiction feature; Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s “Sergio and Sergei” scooped best picture in the Central America and Caribbean competition, while Fernando Muñoz’s “A Calypso Night” scooped best documentary, in prizes announced at the closing ceremony of IFF Panama, that wrapped Wednesday night in Panama City.
At a press conference, artistic director Diana Sanchez announced that in 2019 IFF Panama will complement the audience awards with a Fipresci prize for best film from Central America and the Caribbean. Next year’s fest edition will also hold a film criticism training workshop, in a new initiative agreed with Fipresci president, Klaus Eder, who attended this year’s IFF Panama.
Festival guest Geraldine Chaplin said that the Fipreci prize is an important step forward: “Whenever I go to a festival, I can’t see all the films, but I always watch Fipresci-awarded films. This is a wonderful achievement.”
This year, the fest consolidated its industry dimension, repeating a Documentary Workshop and celebrating a 4th Primera Mirada pix-in-post competition, with Cuban music documentary “En La Caliente” winning first prize and omnibus pic, “Dias de Luz,” voted second,.
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IFF Panama Foundation’s president, Yasser Williams Arosemena, believes that Panama can further reinforce its potential as a major film production hub. At present foreign film shoots benefit from a 15% cash rebate, but he said further incentives are being considered by the government.
Recent foreign shoots in Panama include “007 Quantum of Solace,” “Lost” and reality show, “The Hero”
“We just needed a spark to start building a film industry in Panama,” says Williams. “The film law and the festival were the spark that lit the fire. Now we want it to grow.”
Highlights of this year’s edition included educational workshops and talks, with over 3,000 participants, and two panels – on the role of women in a globalized world, and on film criticism.
“These discussions can kick off new movements,” says fest director Pituka Ortega Heilbron,
She went on: “At IFF Panama we have a unique opportunity to see films from throughout the world and engage in discussion about key issues of relevance for the region.”
One of the novelties of this year’s edition was the Green Program, which paid tribute to Panama’s amazing bio-diversity and the fact that over 20% of the national territory is integrated in nature reserves.
The Green Program bowed with Grace Winter’s documentary, “Marquis de Wavrin, from the Mansion to the Jungle” about a Belgian aristocrat who documented indigenous tribes in the Amazon in the 1920s and 1930s.
“Wavrin was ahead of his time. He was fascinated by the philosophy of native tribes – that if you respect nature, it can give you everything you need,” said Winter.
French helmer Pierre Filmon attended the fest with “Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmiond” and plans to shoot a feature in Panama, starring Angus Macfadyen, linked to the unsuccessful French venture to build the Panama Canal, coproduced by Les Films de la Butte in Paris and Manglar Films in Panama. “I’m amazed by this vitality. I have seen so many Panamanian films here, and realize that it’s a very young industry but it’s growing fast. It’s been a very positive shock.”
Said Sanchez of this year’s edition: “We’ve had full cinemas, incredible guests and real interaction in an intimate environment. It’s been quite inspirational.”