By: Roberto Quintero
Photos: Cortesía de Mansa Productora
The new documentary by Panamanian filmmaker Ana Endara Mislov will finally be released. For four years she made the rounds of multiple international film festivals with her debut film Curundú, which tells the story of a marginalized neighborhood of the same name in Panama City, as seen through the lens of Kenneth, a skilled rogue photographer who lives there. As the 36-year-old director made the festival rounds, she picked up several awards. Next month she will debut her second feature, called Reinas (Queens), about the phenomenon of the thousand and one sovereigns crowned at beauty contests and carnival queen ceremonies, so popular in Panama that they have become a central part of the culture and tradition of this narrow Central American country.
The international premiere of this highly anticipated film will take place at one of the elegant red carpet galas of the 2013 International Film Festival of Panama, which will be held in this “canal” city April 11–17. The premiere will be one of the highlights of this festival, which in its second year will screen more than sixty major films from the world’s seventh art. There will be no shortage of outdoor screenings, glamorous parties with international celebrity guests, and talks and panels for movie-goers and students who want to learn more about topics related to film production. The organizers are preparing an incredible feast, hoping to surpass the huge success of last year’s festival. The public is also excited; they are anxiously waiting for the theaters to once again fill up, the lights to go out, and the first event to begin.
This year, you’ll find Ana and her queens, full of excitement, with Ana hoping to once again enjoy the double excitement of being both a festival participant and a spectator. Actually, in 2012 Ana’s opportunity to finally screen Curundú in a Panamanian theater, with two screenings projected to full houses, was one of the most important and emotional events of the festival. Despite the film’s extensive international distribution, it has had somewhat modest exhibition in Panama, mainly in bars and small cultural centers. The film is now available to the world online: www.curundu.org
“Last year I really enjoyed IFF Panama. The quality of the film selections and the audience reception were really astounding, especially given that it was the festival’s first year. I saw many good films, as many as I could. So I am very happy and honored that Reinas will have its premiere at this festival, which I really liked. More than happy, I am nervous, very excited, and somewhat scared,” commented the director.
The festival is quickly approaching and the complete schedule has not yet been announced, but Ana Endara Mislov’s second production is one of the films generating the most excitement and curiosity. First, because it’s been in production since 2008. Second, in 2011, it became very well-known thanks to a successful public fundraising campaign, which used the online platform Kickstarter. Ana raised $19,067 with the support of 236 backers (as those who donate to a project on Kickstarter are called)exceeding her initial goal of $17,000. “It was a very important economic boost; and emotionally, it gave me the most inspiring push to make this film,” Ana said. The film also received financial support from Cinergia –the Fund for the Promotion of the Audiovisual in Central America and the Caribbean, the Panama Film Commission, and the TEOR/éTica Foundation of Costa Rica.
Although the documentary is called Reinas, its creator would like the audience to see it as a film about Panama. Ana describes it as a many-faced portrait of a wildly popular Panamanian phenomenon in which thousands of queens are crowned every year, giving the viewer “a sensory journey through different queen ceremonies. It doesn’t aspire to be a historical documentary, or an anthropological study. The intention is for viewers to accept the invitation and let themselves be guided by a collection of vignettes, assembled like a collage, with some moments that are intense and others that are confusing, like those experienced during a queen ceremony. Hopefully the public will be impressed with some and keep them, just like postcards from a trip.”
To assemble this polyphonic voyage into the territory of the unique process that generates thousands of Panamanian monarchs, Ana interviewed many more people than she includes in the film: queens, candidates, event production teams, family members, and anyone else who in one way or another was involved in the ceremonies, contributing impressive amounts of time, effort, and money to make them happen. “There are several queen ceremonies that are interwoven into the film’s structure: one hosted by a chain of supermarkets, a carnival queen ceremony in the city, one in the countryside, a ceremony in a high society club, and another in a nursing home. But one ceremony receives more attention than the others: a queen ceremony in a public elementary school, a place where many girls learn to be queens in Panama,” explains the director.
Being a woman born in Panama, a country that produces an incredible number of queens every year, from public and private institutions, in the most prominent social circles and the most remote small towns, Ana had many questions she wanted to explore through her camera, which is how she understands the world around her. “The phenomenon is so much a part of our daily lives and our culture, that we don’t question it. Thousands of people participate in these activities, sometimes painstakingly to maintain a tradition, sometimes in a more automatic way. But I don’t think anyone is asking why. Why do we have so many queens? What purpose do the queens serve? What does a woman get out of being a queen? These are some of the questions I asked the characters in the documentary.”
In her opinion, Reinas was also a space where her entire team could experiment. She is confident the final result will reflect a process that was “very creative in many ways.” An important part of the experiment took place in post-production, as Ana worked with Víctor Mares on editing and José Rommel Tuñón on sound design. She notes that the project also relied heavily on the Spanish film producer, Pilar Moreno, a renowned fine artist who makes her film production debut with this documentary. Moreno created the animated piece that opens the film, which is set in Panama and offers the audience tools for interpreting the rest of the film. The animation serves as a sort of introduction to the trip, perhaps, or a map that shows the way to the final coronation. You’ll just have to see the film to find out. For this eager writer, and many other fans of Ana Endara Mislov’s work, it’s getting closer and closer to the premiere.
Director: Ana Endara Mislov.
Producers: Pilar Moreno and Ana Endara
Editor: Víctor Mares
Sound Design: José Rommel Tuñón T
Cinematography: Ana Endara, Francisco Málaga and Raphael Salazar
Direct Sound: Carlos Urriola
Duration: 64 minutes