Panquiaco director Ana Elena Tejera

Source: IFF Panama

Panquiaco director Ana Elena Tejera at IFF Panama 2019

Panamanian director Ana Elena Tejera won the Works in Progress prize for Panquiaco at the IFF Panama closing ceremony on Wednesday (10), hours after festival director Pituka Ortega Heilbron announced a $15,000 fund to support films by Central American and Caribbean women.

Panquiaco was the only selection from Panama this year and is inspired by the country’s tradition of oral storytelling and indigenous characters before colonization.

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) head of strategic communication Paul Constance presented the award, and handed out the second prize to That’s Why I Come To The River from Dominican director Fernando Blanco.

IDB representative Verónica Zavala said of the Works in Progress section, “If we say that a film reflects the fears, desires and needs of the society in which it is created, then what happens with countries like ours, in which there are stories to tell, but not enough resources to do so?

“This is the reason why IDB supports the Works in Progress program since 2017, because we believe that the world should be filled with more Central American and Caribbean stories, because the creative industries that tell these stories have the capacity to improve lives.”

María Mercedes de la Guardia de Corró, executive vice-president of Corporación La Prensa, presented the Revista K Award for best documentary to Tierra Adentro by Mauro Colombo.

IFF Panama presents inaugural FIPRESCI award

The Public Mastercard Award for best Central America and the Caribbean story was presented by country director of Mastercard Panama, Alfonso García to the Cuban-Canadian film A Translator by Sebastián and Rodrigo Barriuso.

“MasterCard feels proud to be part of an event that so deeply promotes local and regional talent, and that brings and creates new experiences for those who enjoy the art of film,” said García. “Being able to enjoy the world of cinema in Panama is definitely priceless. We hope to continue being part of this important event next year.”

The Copa Airlines Public Award for the best Ibero-American fiction film was presented by Copa Airlines brand manager Lourdes Díaz to the Brazilian film Benzinho by Gustavo Pizzi.

During the festival’s closing press conference, the Panamanian critic and FIPRESCI juror Daniel Domínguez announced that the Guatemalan film Asphyxia, by Ana Isabel Bustamente, had been selected to receive the international critics body’s inaugural award at IFF Panama.

Rounding out the ceremony, special guest Edward James Olmos presented closing night film The Sentence, a documentary by Rudy Valdez.

Pituka Ortega Heilbron launches $15,000 Su Mirada fund

Earlier in the day, Ortega Heilbron announced the launch of the $15,000 Su Mirada fund to support the films of Central American and Caribbean women. “There are no funds like this,” Ortega Heilbron said of the award, designed to further social themes. “We had to do it ourselves. Women’s perspectives on these issues must have a chance to be shown.”

The Su Mirada fund will presents $15,000 annually for the next five years and is backed with the support of the Inter American Development Bank, and private enterprises.

Ortega Heilbron also announced the “Festivalito”, which will screen the six most watched movies of the festival and takes place this upcoming weekend at Cinepolis Town Center.

The festival director recognised the work and passion of the dozens of volunteers, adding: “[Volunteers] are not just the face of the festival, but also the face of the country.”

Ortega Heilbron thanked the government, the private sector, and the Panamanian people for their support over the last eight years. “I want to express how proud we feel about the Panamanian public. How have they came to cinemas. How have they welcomed our guests. It is incredible how Panamanians connect with the films we bring to IFF.”

Panamanian film commissioner Essie Mastellari revealed that since its creation in 2012, IFF Panama has brought more than $20m into the Panamanian economy. She also announced that from April 16-May 2, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries will be accepting projects for the Fondo Cine, a $2.2m fund for the production of films in four categories.

Outgoing IFF Panama artistic director Diana Sánchez, who departs for Toronto International Film Festival to start her job as senior director of film, thanked the Locarno Academy for orchestrating marketing and distribution workshops to Panamanian filmmakers. “This has been our most successful year. We had some new initiatives, including the Locarno Industry Academy and the FIPRESCI Awards.”