IFF Panama’s co-production forum, the Panama Film Match, launched in 2020 in a virtual format. It’s now holding its first in-person format between Dec. 2-4 as part of the 10th Panama Intl. Film Festival (IFF Panama).
Creating a co-production forum has been a long-standing goal for IFF Panama, the highest-profile film event in Central America. The PFM is a sister event to IFF Panama’s pix-in-post sidebar, Primera Mirada, which are already showing synergies.
One of the projects that received a special mention in last year’s edition of the PFM, Ariel Escalante’s Costa Rican supernatural drama “Domingo and the Fog” is returning this year as one of the five films competing in Primera Mirada.
The forum is supported by the IDB Lab, the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank Group.
“Panama Film Match seeks to be a meeting place for artistic, economic and creative cooperation between the countries of this special region of the world, whose nascent cinematography needs the support and commitment of an entity which is already consolidated, such as IFF Panama,” said Pituka Ortega Heilbron, director of the IFF Panama Foundation.
She added: “Festivals, programmers and audiences are more receptive and attentive every year to the new artistic proposals from our filmmakers. The idea of the Forum is to unite and bring together the film industry of the region to ensure that our filmmakers have the necessary tools to finance, make, sell and distribute their films.”
The PFM provides networking opportunities, pitching sessions, mentoring advice, meetings with international producers, distributors and programmers – and also a $10,000 co-production award for the winning project. Projects will be evaluated by a three-person jury comprised of Colombian director Cristina Gallego (“Embrace of the Serpent”), Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante (“Ixcanul”) and U.S. screenwriter Jonathan Keasey (TV series “Give Me Shelter”), chief creative officer of Mind Riot Entertainment.
10 projects are in competition this year, selected from 51 submissions from Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
Blanca Granados, advisor to the IFF Panama Film Match co-production forum, says that this year the selection process was even more difficult, with a 25% growth in applications compared to 2020, adding “Countries from which we had not received projects also participated this year, such as Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador.
She added: “It was a difficult process to select only 10 projects, so in the end we invited an extra project out of competition, so that the project could benefit from workshops and meetings with experts. This is an indication that in the coming years we will see an increase in the supply of films from Central America and the Caribbean.”
So “Broken,” from El Salvador, will be presented out of competition. In total there are six fiction film projects, three documentary features, and two hybrid projects. A brief rundown:
The Good Man of Pachalum (Guatemala). Debut fiction feature film of Renato Borrayo Serrano, following his 2021 feature documentary ‘Life of Ivanna,’ about a Siberian nomad. A talented businessman tries to bring together Guatemalan families torn apart by emigration.
The Beach House (Costa Rica). Debut feature film by Kim Elizondo Navarro, produced by Gabriela Fonseca Villalobos (“The Awakening of the Ants”). 49-year-old Vilma has fulfilled her dream of living in a large beach house, visited by her rich lover only once a year. After he suddenly disappears without explanation, she has to find a way to make a living.
The Star (Cuba). Hybrid feature by Alejandro Alonso Estrella, whose 2017 debut feature documentary, “The Project” won the Fipresci Prize at DOK Leipzig. Pitufo and Pa, two friends from a ship scrapyard in western Cuba, set off in a small boat in search of a new life, filled with hope and danger.
The Invisibles (Guatemala). Hybrid feature film by young Guatemalan helmer, Andrés Rodríguez. After his father’s death, Alejandro returns to his hometown, where he is rejected by the local community. He discovers that his mother is suffering from the same disease that killed his father.
Without a Name (Dominican Republic). Debut feature film by Valeria Bolivar. Schizophrenic mother Marcela loses her son because of her condition. She falls in love with Joaquín, who fled from Venezuela, leaving his son behind. Together they start to build a non-traditional family.
Menarche (Panama). Debut feature film from Panamanian writer-director Jairo Ramos, an associate producer on “Panama Radio”: A coming-of-age tale about Edna who lives in a remote rural village in Panama and must confront her true identity.
Moa (Cuba). First feature film from established Cuban doc director, Marcel Beltrán (“The Music of the Spheres”). Khatia suffers from solastalgia, a form of suffering caused by environmental change, primarily driven by the toxic smoke that pollutes the landscape in the mining town of Moa. She tries to find inner strength as her aspirations, relationship and sense of belonging begin to fade away.
Norma (Panama). Debut feature film from Cat Caballero. Norma and her wheelchair-bound husband Hugo are about to be evicted from the apartment where they have lived since their marriage. An unexpected meeting with one of Hugo’s old friends shakes up their lives.
Beloved Tropic (Panama). Debut feature film from Ana Endera, whose documentary, “The Joy of Sound” (2016), premiered to an upbeat reception at the IDFA Competition for mid-length documentary.
Colombian immigrant Ana María is caring for Mercedes, a high society lady suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Together they find friendship and hope.
A Wardrobe, An Island (Cuba). Documentary feature by Jeannine Diego Medina. Through their clothes, mirrors and the challenge of Cuba’s dress codes, five women attempt to make non-conventional history of their own, revealing a hidden and unexplored Cuba.
Guest Project: Broken (El Salvador). Doc feature from Stefany María Escobar Calles. The survival journey and reconciliation of Stefany, who suffered from child abuse. Through a poetic language, the film relates the encounter between the woman and the abused child.