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Panama: The Next Big Country for Latin American Films?

Panama: The Next Big Country for Latin American Films?

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 28, 2016

An exponential surge in the quantity and quality of films is continuing to come out of Latin America. (Hence my urge to write two books on the subject, the next to come out this fall.) 

Mexico's output of 140 films, the highest in its glorious if erratic film history, has been accompanied by an explosion of the number of top ranking directors (Alejandro G. IñárrituAlfonso Cuarón,Guillermo del Toro), DOPs (Emmanuel Lubezki), actors (Eugenio DerbezGael García Bernal), producers, below the line, etc; major blockbusters (“Instructions Not Included”, “The Noble Family”), and festivals in every state of The United States of Mexico from Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, Morelia, Baja, Guadalajara, Puerta Vallarta, Acapulco, etc. What a way to see Mexico through its films and film festivals! USA's partnership in the cross-border cultural achievements of Mexico unites our two countries in culture, a great alliance which benefits us perhaps more than it does them...but that is another article. 

Argentina continues in spite of its erratic politics and economy to keep its production steady as it always has, and it continues export the largest number of arthouse cinema of Latin America, Daniel Burman’s "The Tenth Man" being its latest, with Kino Lorber picking it up for U.S. and Canada. Argentina's Latam market, Ventana Sur, in partnership with the Cannes Marché makes it the strongest and best market of Latin America for Latino films. 

Colombia's systematic, steady work at creating a film culture is paying off in a tremendous outflow of award winning arthouse, indigenous (Ciro Guerra's "Embrace of the Serpent" whose ISA Films Boutique sold to Oscilloscope for U.S., Alfa Films for Argentina, Diaphana Films for France, MFA Filmdistribution for Germany, Magyarhangya for Hungary, Peccadillo Pictures for U.K.,trigon-film for Switzerland.  Denmark sold to Natlys, France sold to Diaphana, Mexico sold to Interior 13 Cine, Portugal sold to Alambique), Afro-diaspora ("La Playa DC" whose ISA Cineplex sold it for U.S. to Artmattan Productions, Canada to K Films Amerique, Colombia to Cineplex, France to Jour2fete; and "La Sirga" whose ISA Cineplex sold it to Film Movement for U.S., for Colombia to Cineplex, France to Zootrope Films ) and genre films. Tiny Uruguay has strong films by doubly strong producers like Mariana Secco whose strength at carving out a niche equals the work of Wonder Woman. Paraguay and Peru and Cuba are showing the world their undeniable accomplishments as well. 

Central America, long denied its own voice -- first because United States and United Fruit created banana republics out of them, then by the trade in drugs and now by exporting gang members to their parents' countries – all of which has resulted in creating nations of violence and poverty, is now experiencing the thrill of creating sustainable film economies. 

Will it be Costa Rica, (which has not been a part of the violent cycle of drugs and gangs) whose stability and economy are able to sustain growth if the government creates cinema laws to help it along? The film writer María Lourdes Cortés is the most articulate advocate of Central American Cinema since establishing Cinergia, Central America's only homemade film promotion, training, dissemination and funding organ, and the astoundingly prolific young producer, Marcela Esquivel, whose "Red Princesses" brought Costa Rica to the world's attention as two frontrunners in Costa Rica's race. Esquivel's Cuban-Costa Rican coproduction “August”/ "Agosto" (ISA: FiGa) was nurtured by Cannes's Fabrique des Cinemas du Monde and in FICG’s Coproduction Market and whose film “The Ballroom”/ “El Baile y el salon” is about to start production? 

Or will it be Panama, whose Canal has just doubled in size and is a center for international trade to such a degree that China itself is challenging it by tearing up the rain forest of Nicaragua in order to build its own canal? 

Panama, with its eye on taking a lead as the internet hub for Latin America, Panama whose Canal creates a Cuba-U.S.-China triangle for trade, Panama whose close history with U.S., its same time zone location with U.S., its direct flights to U.S., its central position for Israeli businesses fleeing the instability of the Mid East, Panama may well come out ahead of Costa Rica. These are the two horses I am putting my money on. 

Next week I will be at the Panama Film Festival, long headed on the artistic front by the much acclaimed Pituka Ortega-Heilbron and on its industry front by the Toronto FF vet Diana Sanchez. We’ll cover the news and will be watching it in all its diversity to see if it furthers the odds against the Costa Rica International Film Festival. Long advised by 20-year Sundance Film Festival industry vet, Nicole Guillemet, CRIFF is now, reportedly finally being stabilized by the installation of a permanent producer. Next, CRIFF needs an artistic director so that Nicole can concentrate more on programming. 

Panama will also be premiering six of its own films. Comprised of three documentaries and three fiction films, this year’s Panamanian pictures portray the constant struggle of minorities, problematic life in the city, the search for one’s identity, and unresolved past events, exploring numerous socio-cultural issues living in the isthmus of Panama. Comedy will not be missed.

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