By: Roberto Quintero
Photos: Noelia Vittori y Carlos Gómez
It’s official: April 11-17, 2013 marks the return of the International Film Festival of Panama, better known as IFF Panama. Last year’s inaugural event was such a success that the lights had barely gone up after the last film before the Panamanian capital began to buzz with the open secret that there would be a second IFF Panama. The audiences, so eager for good movies that they filled the theaters, expected nothing less after enjoying an event unprecedented in Panama; event sponsors and organizers could not have imagined such an overwhelming response, even in their wildest dreams.
“Seventeen thousand people crowded the cinemas, which impressed everyone. We knew we would get a good audience response, but not like this. The most beautiful thing is that many people in the audience did not necessarily know what to expect, and not only did they get to see marvelous films, they also learned something about themselves,” said Pituka Ortega Heilbron, director of IFF Panama. She added that Panamanians were amazed, and the international artists who participated were also very surprised by the magnitude of this event, which was held in our country for the first time. “They had rarely attended a festival with such a palpable enthusiasm for cinema; the audience transmitted its own infectious energy to the artists.”
With emotions still fresh after such an extraordinary debut, the obvious question arises: “What can we expect from IFF Panama 2013?” We already know there will be more outdoor screenings, because this was one of the most popular parts of last year’s IFF. The Old Quarter of Panama City will once again be one of the principal venues for the festival, making the historic part of town an important destination with the addition of two cinemas that were not used last year: the Teatro Anita Villalaz and the auditorium of the Canal Museum. And of course, the National Theater is still the ideal location for the opulent red carpet galas that crown every festival.
There will be a new category for documentaries and new awards for best picture. “We would like to let the audience know that their votes are valuable and powerful. A film that wins an award at the International Film Festival of Panama should enjoy a certain transcendence at other festivals, thanks to the power of our audience’s votes,” remarked the director of the festival. Although further details are still under wraps, she confirmed that there will be an award for Best Central American Film, as well as the requisite Copa Airlines Audience Award.
Another bit of good news about the 2013 IFF is that the Panamanian government has confirmed its support for this year’s festival —through the Ministry of Trade and Industry— generously sponsoring the festival to the tune of 1.2 million dollars. According to Ortega Heilbron, who in addition to running the festival is a renowned filmmaker, support from all sectors of the country including government, private industry, and civil society, was essential to last year’s success. She described it as a confluence of strengths, “unprecedented in our country,” with respect to a cultural project.
In this spirit, she invites the support of anyone wishing to help. It is not necessary to be a company or institution; the festival also receives financial pledges from “Benefactors” and “Members,” categories developed to allow lovers of cinema to be part of the festival by providing funding. Donors receive benefits and the satisfaction of contributing to this cultural initiative in exchange for their gifts.
Panamanians are eagerly awaiting the program for IFF Panama 2013; everyone wants to know which celebrities will visit the country to participate. Like last year, several great stars of the seventh art are expected to attend this year’s festival. Many names have unofficially been mentioned and cinephiles and the industry press dare to dream big and hope that some of their favorite filmmakers might be on the list. It is still a little early for details, however, so Pituka Ortega Heilbron is keeping them under her hat for now. Nonetheless, she did give us one scoop: one of the international artists attending will be the famous U.S. actress Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin.
Keep up with all the latest information at
www.iffpanama.org and don’t miss out on the chance to help one of the most promising film festivals in Latin America grow.