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Good Movies are Back

This year’s Panama Film Festival will screen films released worldwide during the year, such as The Biggest House in the World and Ixcanul.

Por Ana Teresa Benjamín
Fotos: Cortesía IFF

The fourth annual International Film Festival of Panama (IFF), to be held April 9 to 15, is sure to have something of interest to everyone.

Films that moved the needle at the last Cannes Festival, such as Mommy by Canadian director Xavier Dolan; Fuerza mayor (Turist) by Sweden’s Ruben Östlund; White God by Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó; and L’il Quinquin by Frenchman Bruno Dumont, will be shown at the venues that, for the last three years, have been overwhelmed by crowds eager for new stories: the Anita Villalaz Theater, Panama City’s Old Quarter, and Quinto Centenario Park on the coastal beltway.

IFF artistic director Diana Sánchez explained that six films presented at Cannes will be shown at the Panamanian festival; the scheduled Central American and Caribbean works have also raised expectations. “I am very happy because we have two Guatemalan films, which is unusual, and two movies that will have their world premières in February and then come to Panama,” she said.

Movies such as The Biggest House in the World, a Guatemala-México co-production directed by México’s Lucía Carreras, and Ixcanul, by Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante, will be shown at the Berlinale in February and then make their way to the Isthmus in April. Also showing will be Sand Dollars, a Dominican film featuring British actress Geraldine Chaplin, who returns to Panama this year after appearing as a guest at the second edition of the IFF.

A Preview of Some of the Offerings

Mommy (134 minutes) is the story of a mother with a child with AHDH. As noted in the digital magazine Sinembargo.mx the boy, who is “violent toward himself and others,” has already been expelled from one school for setting fire to the cafeteria and seriously injuring a schoolmate. The film garnered the Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival, and director Dolan has already worked on five films, which is extraordinary for a young man of just twenty-five years of age.

Fuerza mayor by Swedish director Ruben Östlund has been described as a black comedy. It shows a marriage breaking up after an avalanche during which the woman tried to protect her children while the father fled for his life, leaving his family behind. As journalist José María Rondón wrote last November in the Culture section of Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the story turns on this “act that is unjustifiable but so very human,” as the father afterward tries to regain his role of patriarch in the family.

Ixcanul is Jayro Bustamante’s first feature-length film. The story describes the inequality experienced by María, a young Maya Cakchiquel woman, faced with an arranged marriage and a pregnancy that takes her into the modern world to which she aspires, but with unexpected results. Last September the film earned a special mention in the Works in Progress category at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain.

Geraldine Chaplin returns to Panama with Sand Dollars, in which the actress plays Anne, a woman who falls in love with Dominican prostitute Noeli (Yanet Mojica), who is several years younger and only wants to go to Europe. The movie is based on the novel Sand Dollars by Algerian writer Jean-Noël Pancrazi, and was co-directed by Mexican filmmaker Israel Cárdenas and Dominican filmmaker Laura Amelia Guzmán.

What Else Will We See at the IFF?

Sánchez told us that for the first time the festival will show a retrospective. The work of Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz was chosen as the focus. “These looks at a director’s career path are important, but in the past we did not have the infrastructure for obtaining all the films and the rights. We began with Karim because he is one of the first to draw international attention to cinema in his region, and also because we wanted to include the Portuguese language in the festival,” the artistic director explained.

Also new is the Primera Mirada division, which seeks to encourage postproduction of Central American and Caribbean films. Five films will be selected and shown to an international jury, with a $25,000 award for the winning film. “The idea is to position ourselves as the place where people come to see the latest in Central American and Caribbean cinema,” noted Sánchez.

Sánchez prefers not to talk about Panamanian films yet, since the selection process is still open. So, we need to be patient, my friends.

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