Saturday, March 30, 2013


Pituka Ortega Heilbron, director of the International Film Festival of Panamá (IFF Panamá), has announced the line-up for IFF Panamá's sophomore edition, to be held April 11-17, 2013. IFF Panamá will include more than 60 films from all over the world that have been exhibited and / or awarded at such prestigious film festivals as Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and San Sebastián. Several of the directors of these films will be present to show their movie in person and to participate in follow-up question and answer sessions with their audience to encourage dialogue and understanding between cultures. The event is sponsored by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MICI), the Panama Film Commission, the National Institute of Culture and private enterprise.

Last year's inaugural edition proved a resounding success. At that time, I wrote a piece concerning the founding of the festival, and especially enjoyed interviewing featured guest Álex de la Iglesia. This year promises to be equally exciting as IFF Panamá amps up its spectacular dimension with national premieres, red carpets, galas, special events and parties. Renowned film directors, international movie stars and celebrities will be in attendance, and more than 30 international journalists (myself included!) will join 60 local journalists to provide extensive national and global coverage for the event.

Highlights of IFF Panamá 2013 will include a tribute paid to actress Geraldine Chaplin. IFF Panamá will screen a suite of her films, including Carlos Saura's 1976 Cría Cuervos (a masterpiece full of melancholy and dark fascination), Charles Chaplin's 1921 silent classic The Kid (chosen by Geraldine to pay tribute to her father), Antonio Hernández's In the City without Limits (2002), Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage (2007), and Agustí Vila's The Mosquito Net (2010).

It has likewise been confirmed that Rubén Blades will be making an appearance after one of the Special Presentations screenings. The Panamanian singer, also known for his acting roles in The Guest (2012), Mexico (2003), Predator 2 (1990), and Do the Right Thing (1989), will be present for a Q&A after the screening of Richard Pierce's TV drama Dead Man Out (1989). It's an opportunity for the Panamanian public to a view a film which won Blades—"one of the most illustrious sons of the country"—the U.S. Cable Industry's ACE Award.

IFF Panamá will be held in two major venues: the historic National Theater, located in Old Town (Casco Viejo), and the modern major chain movie theaters based in Panama City. The Cinema Route will be launched in 2013, which includes the Anita Villalaz Theatre in the National Institute of Culture Building and the Canal Museum auditorium as movie theaters. While regular functions will be held in an environment defined by the highest standards of technology and modernity, the red carpet functions will be enveloped in the aura emanated by the historical and traditional National Theater. Built in the neo-classical style that prevailed in that era, as were many government buildings, with its interior painted by the great Roberto Lewis, the halls of the grand National Theater have been tread by the likes of artists Alicia Alonso and Margot Fonteyn and Panamanian musicians the Ingrans and Alfredo de Saint Malo, making it an architectural jewel in the crown of Panamanian culture.

As part of a concept to incorporate the films with other cultural and recreational activities in the Casco Viejo, IFF Panamá has scheduled a circuit of screenings in three sites in the Old Town, in addition to the free outdoor movies that will be projected at the Fifth Centennial Park on the Coastal Strip. With this initiative, IFF Panamá intends for this historical and tourist area to be as taken by the cinephilic spirit as Panama City will be for a week, and hopes that the hotels, restaurants and bars in the area will benefit from the activity.

Regular Function screenings will take place on the 100% digital screens at Cinepolis Mulitplaza. IFF Panamá will be bringing the 3D projection of the film Storm Surfers (2012) to audiences. This film is the ultimate visual experience and a true assault on the senses. Not to mention a powerful adrenaline rush on the big screen. Storm Surfers drags us out to sea where only the world's most daring surfers can dream of mastering.

Pituka Ortega Heilbron assures that audiences will be more than pleased because "it is the best possible selection of films and documentaries chosen by the prestigious Artistic Director of the festival and Festival Programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Diana Sanchez."

Attendees of the conference were also informed about the educational work carried out by the non-profit IFF Panama Foundation, together with the founder and first director of the festival, Henk Van der Kolk, and the mission of promoting the appreciation of cinema throughout the country. The director of the Panama Film Commission, Arianne Benedetti also has informed us that the Film Fund Awards will be announced on April 16 at the National Theater prior to the Red Carpet screening that night.

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