The Panama Intl. Film Festival, the highest-profile film event in Central America and a key platform for the region’s burgeoning film industry, has postponed its 9th edition, due to run from March 26 to April 1.
The announcement came on Wednesday as Panamá’s Health Minister, Rosario Turner, reported the first COVID-19 related death in Panamá – and indeed in Central America – and eight confirmed cases in the country.
But there are large fears that those numbers could escalate. The postponement has been made “to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our nation” and “in full respect for the life, health and well-being of so many marvelous people who plunge each year into producing and enjoying the Panamá Intl. Film Festival,” the festival – also known as the IFF Panamá – said in a written statement.
The festival signaled that the decision had been made “in agreement with and respect for the norms of Panama’s Health Ministry and the World Health Organization.” The festival’s new dates will be announced in close co-ordination with national authorities, it added.
Launched by festival director Pituka Ortega Heilbron in 2012, the IFF Panamá has slotted quickly into the international festival circuit, aided by Ortega Heilbron’s energy and the growth of a fledgeling film industry in Panama and other parts of the Caribbean – notably the Dominican Republic – as well as an industry interface in a Primera Mirada works in progress competition selected until very recently by the Toronto Festival’s Diana Sánchez.
Further festival attractions take in Panamanian production incentives for international shoots, a continued influx of notable stars, such as Geraldine Chaplin and Ricardo Darín, and big name auteurs, such as Pablo Trapero, a discussion forum for hot issues affecting the industry, a steady news flow from attendees, and the fervid support of the Panamanian population, proud of the international standards of a clutch of its films each year which often came from or went on to major festivals.Convinced that talent can come from anywhere, the festival has also seen a steady attendance of arthouse film sales agents.