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Panama's International Film Festival


Event details


IFF loaded with award-winning films


Julianne Moore the star of 'Gloria Bell', a remake of 'Gloria', directed by the director of the original, Sebastián Lelio. Photo : Courtesy

Posted 25/03/2019
By Margot Thomas

Panama’s  international film festival continues to grow in stature and in the quality of films to lure and satisfy film buffs

This year the Festival runs April 4 to 10 and includes productions that have won awards or critical applause at the world’s most prestigious events: The Oscars, Césars (the French Oscar ) or at the Bafta (the British Oscar ), and the Oscars. or have been applauded at festivals such as Toronto, Venice, Cannes, Valladolid and

This annual event will showcase feature films from Lebanon, Iran, Korea, Poland, the UK United France, and Italy,  ranging from family and social drama to thrillers and musicals and more

"We are pleased to have interesting, provocative and ambitious visions of contemporary cinema," says IFF artistic director Diana Sánchez.,

Tickets "for the opening and closing galas and  other Festival events are on sale  through TusTiquetes.com and today March 25  the general sale of tickets


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Panama filmmakers spotlight corruption, poverty, division


Homebred creators
Posted 07/04/2019
Prior to the launch of IFF Panama in 2012, Panama’s film production was virtually non-existent. With the aid of the festival, the national film fund, and impetus created by an influx of foreign shoots, local productions have secured an increasingly important role at the domestic box office says the influential Variety magazine, but includes pointed references to the country’s institutional corruption.
Several projects now enjoy multi-territory releases – such as Abner Benaim’s “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name” and Arturo Montenegro’s “Frozen in Russia,” both released in 2018.
IFF Panama has increased visibility for local films and helped local helmers set their sights on the international market.
Seven Panamanian films are screening at the 8th IFF Panama; other promising projects are in production or pre-production.
All projects explore the complex, multi-faceted dimensions of Panamanian culture, ranging from tropical rainforests and indigenous tribes to the legacy of decades of U.S. presence.
Miguel González’s half-hour documentary, “The Fourth Estate,” turns on corruption in a country that has one of the world’s highest levels of social inequality.
“Certain parts of the country are completely forgotten,” explains González. “There are also shocking examples of poor shanty towns next to tall skyscrapers. But the worst dimension of corruption is its interiorizing – people accept it as being normal.”
Pre-election release 
González plans to release the short documentary online after the festival in order to generate debate in the build-up to Panama’s May 5 general election. He aims to release a longer feature-length version later this year.
The fest’s Panama Perspective section includes four films. José Ángel Canto’s black-and-white feature, “Dry Season” revolves around three young people in their early twenties, an old gentleman and a native woman from the Kuna tribe. Canto stars as one of the youngsters.
The pic was shot 13 years ago, but had to remain on the shelf as he searched for an editor and post-production funding.
Canto studied at the Cuba Film School and thinks that this helped him bring an innovative visual aesthetic and greater social awareness to the film.
He is now developing a $1 million period drama set in the 1960s, “The Divided Land” with support from Panama’s national film fund. The film is about a local black man who falls in love with an American white girl living in the U.S.-controlled zone of the Panama Canal, whose motto was “The land divided, the world united.”
Lucho Araújo’s 54-minute documentary “Grandchildren of Jazz” received an award from Doc TV Latin America and was recently aired by several Latin American broadcasters.
The pic, shot over a two-year period, is about a group of six teenagers living in Panama City’s historic quarter who are keen jazz players and are preparing to record their first album.
Two well-known Panamanian jazz musicians, Idania Dowman and Carlos Garnett help the teenagers achieve their dream. Araújo is now finalizing a feature-length version of the project which he hopes to screen in other festivals.


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OPINION : Opening a cultural door


Posted 07/04/2019
Just a few years ago, talking about film production in Panama was a subject that could be considered fiction. The efforts of a handful of creators, intellectuals and cultural promoters, and the broad support of the Panamanian public have established a local industry of the seventh art. Perhaps the best showcase to know and highlight these treasures of national talent is the International Film Festival of Panama (IFF Panama), which since 2012 has been calling the local and international filmmakers to show a different cinema. From every point of view, the IFF has been a success, since on the one hand it has helped to create an audience for Panamanian production, and on the other, it has shown that good cinema has an obligatory appointment in Panama. The IFF Panama has opened the door to new authors, as well as consecrated names of the audiovisual medium. Initiatives like this are the best demonstration that good cultural policy, based on public-private partnerships, and on the education of citizens, can transform Panama into a mecca of culture and art. Panamanian cinema is an activity that allows us to see ourselves reflected on the big screen, to make fun of ourselves, question our reality and dream about other possible worlds. The festival is the door that allows us to recognize, admire and celebrate the talent that tells us great stories. Many of which are Panamanians. it can transform Panama into a mecca of culture and art. Panamanian cinema is an activity that allows us to see ourselves reflected on the big screen, to make fun of ourselves, question our reality and dream about other possible worlds. The festival is the door that allows us to recognize, admire and celebrate the talent that tells us great stories. Many of which are Panamanians. it can transform Panama into a mecca of culture and art - LA PRENSA, Apl. 7


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The founder of IFFF is Rob Brown of Coronado. He's the son-in-law of Henk Van der Kolk, the founder of the highly successful TIFF in Toronto.

Expat lives: Split screens

After setting up the Toronto International Film Festival, Henk Van der Kolk moved to Panama and did it all again



David Kaufman October 26, 2012

A life in three acts is an apt way to describe the journey of Henk Van der Kolk. Born in the town of Zwolle 80 miles north-east of Amsterdam, Van der Kolk now lives between Toronto – where he emigrated in 1967 to avoid Dutch military service – and Panama City, his part-time residence for the past two years.

“Canada had a strong wartime relationship with Holland back then,” says Van der Kolk, who was a husband and father of three within five years of his arrival in North America. In both Canada and Panama, Van der Kolk has used film as a vehicle for professional success and cultural integration. In 1976, Van der Kolk – then a small-scale film-maker – co-founded the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which now rivals Cannes as the cinema industry’s most important annual gathering.

More than 35 years later, Van der Kolk helped launch the International Film Festival Panama (IFFP) this past April and May. Inspired by Latin America’s under-appreciated cinema industry, the inaugural IFFP attracted more than 17,000 viewers to some 50 films from throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Developing a film festival was the last thing Van der Kolk intended when he first arrived in Panama in 2010 to see his adult daughter Yolanda. “My wife Yanka and I fell in love with the place and immediately felt like we wanted to stay here,” explains Van der Kolk. “Unlike in Canada, it never gets cold in Panama,” he adds, “and the country has this easy, Caribbean-like pacing.”

Within a year, the Van der Kolks had made Panama their winter base and the third country they would come to call home. Owing to complex anti-laundering laws, basic tasks such as opening a Panamanian bank account proved tortuous. But finding a place to live was relatively straightforward. “I absolutely hate living in high-rises,” says Van der Kolk. So rather than settle in Panama City’s skyscraper-filled downtown, the Van der Kolks opted for the Casco Viejo – or “Old Town” – the capital’s compact, Unesco-lauded historic core some 45 minutes from the Panama Canal.

Set on a slim peninsula, the Casco’s colonial-era architecture and sophisticated culinary scene are increasingly luring anglophone expats and tourists. “Our home is relatively simple; two floors in a restored Casco building with a traditional garden courtyard, a small pool and waterfall,” says Van der Kolk, whose low-slung residence is a short walk from most of the IFFP’s event and screening spaces. “It’s extremely tranquil here, we feel like we have our own chunk of jungle.”

From their Casco casita, the Van der Kolks – who are avid boaters – quickly established a leisurely routine of weekday power-walks along the oceanfront Cinta Costera (coastal beltway) and weekend sailing escapes to Santa Clara. They bought a Mini Cooper – “a convertible”, Van der Kolk enthuses – and explored Panama’s verdant hill towns and the easy-access beach communities on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. “Panama may be tiny but the country is really a series of microclimates,” Van der Kolk says. “The shifts in temperature and seasons are truly beguiling.”

Panama was never intended as a formal retirement. Curious and energetic, Van der Kolk almost immediately took an interest in Panama City’s cinema scene, which reminded him of Canada’s own film industry four decades ago. “Back then, the film world was dominated by Hollywood, and Canadian-made films were almost non-existent,” recalls Van der Kolk, who retired from TIFF in the mid-1980s to help oversee his wife’s photography business. “Today, Toronto has a vibrant film production industry and TIFF pumps some $175m into the local economy each year.”

Van der Kolk quickly realised that film could also help transform Panama’s economy, which is heavily dependent on Canal fees and tourism, with little investment in the arts or culture. The film festival is the most immediate part of this process, complemented by longer-term goals such as the establishment of a formal cinema school and increased government funding for local film production.

Van der Kolk is involved in all of these endeavours, which have kept him and Yanka in Panama for most of the past year. Despite the satisfaction of a successful new film festival, Van der Kolk’s Panamanian third act remains a work in progress. “Creating friendships with Panamanians has definitely been challenging,” says Van der Kolk, who has stepped down from running IFFP and will now split his time equally between Panama and Canada. “I do miss our friends back in Canada.”

Nonetheless, lobbying government ministers for funding and local business leaders for support has rapidly integrated Van der Kolk into the highest rungs of Panamanian society – despite his poor Spanish. “I’m 70 years old now, and new languages just don’t come that easily to me any more,” concedes Van der Kolk, who speaks Dutch, French and English. Still, Van der Kolk spends little time in Panama City’s English-speaking expatriate scene, which he says “is filled with folks moaning about Panama’s problems”.

Instead, he and Yanka can usually be found enjoying cocktails at a cosy Casco lounge or mentoring a young Panamanian photographer or film-maker. “There’s nothing to be gained from this kind of negative thinking,” continues Van der Kolk, who himself occasionally bemoans Panama’s sluggish bureaucracy and rigorous class structure. “Panamanians are not going to ‘change’; we have to change if we are going to live here happily.”


Edited by Keith Woolford
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Roma star gets key to Panama

Posted 08/04/2019
Yalitza Aparicio the star the multiple award-winning film Roma,  who was the first indigenous actor to be nominated for an Academy Award is in Panama for the International Film Festival and is scheduled to receive the keys to the city of Panama,   in tribute to her impact on the international community.

The Mexican actress and treacher Aparicio confirmed to TVN News on Monday, April 8  that she is ready to shoot a new movie while giving her . views on  Donald Trump- "a racist"- ( Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the caravans of migrants.



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