A report by Martin Dale for Variety.
Five films compete in festival’s work-in-progress sidebar, its major industry draw
The number of films submitted to the Central America and Caribbean sidebar has risen by almost 50% this year – 32 films were submitted in 2015, 46 in 2016, 48 in 2017 and 67 this year.
Sales agents attending the work-in-progress creenings – which run April 9-10 – include FiGa Films, Habanero Film Sales, Weisner Distribution, the Havana Film Festival, Berlinale and OpenReel.
Projects will be screened in exclusive private sessions for sales agents, distributors, and film festival programmers. The jury members are Mexican producer, Laura Imperiale, Panamanian writer, Daniel Domínguez Z., and veteran Peruvian director, Francisco J. Lombardi.
The sidebar is particularly important for the region’s filmmakers who often desperately require post-production completion finance and mentoring advice. Three out of last year’s four Primera Mirada projects are screening at IFF Panama this year – joint winners “Cocote” and “Calypso Night,” plus “Who Are You?”.
In 2016, IFF Panama signed an agreement with the Cannes Film Market for the sidebar’s winning films to screen at the Marché, together with their director and producer, which helps them secure distribution, additional funding and key festival screenings.
Primera Mirada has become a major launch pad for upcoming films from the region – as highlighted by the success of last year’s joint winner “Cocote”, from the Dominican Republic, which went on to win Locarno’s Signs of Life section, Mar del Plata’s Best Latin-American Film and was selected for San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos, a best of Latin America major sidebar.
Filmmakers can also build their projects by attending more than one pix-in-post sidebar, which programmer Diana Sanchez encourages. “It’s great for filmmakers to have several chances to experiment a little and show their work in different nurturing environments.”
Omnibus pic, “Days of Light” recounts events in six Central American countries – Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador – after a solar storm leads to a region-wide power outage.
Produced by Panama’s Isabella Galvez, the $500,000 project highlights the work of six young directors. It has participated in the Rotterdam Lab, Fundación Carolina’s project development workshop, Costa Rica’s Cine en Construcción and has coproduction support from Ibermedia. In April, it will screen at the Malaga Film Festival’s work-in-progress sidebar.
Costa Rican Ernesto Villalobos’ sophomore picture, “Cascos Indomables” (Untamed Helmets), a motorbike messenger bromance drama, was developed at the Cannes Festival’s Cinefondation Residence, Paris Co-production Village, and Produire aud Sud, and screened in Sanfic’s work in progress section in Santiago de Chile in August.
Fabien Pisani’s “En La Caliente” explores how Cuba’s new generation of musicians have used reggaeton to vent their frustrations with the current political outlook.
Guatemalan Camila Urrutia’s debut feature, “Pólvora en el Corazón” (Gunpowder Heart), is about the love and friendship between its two main female characters, interlaced with themes of violence against women and revenge.
Veteran Panamanian director Edgar Soberón Torchia will present documentary “Panama Radio”, about a record store/radio station which became a key voice for the emerging Panamanian nation in the 1960s and 1970s.
“We’re delighted with this year’s selection”, said Diana Sanchez. “There are certain textures, sounds and a climate that are unique to Central American and Caribbean cinema, because we’re in the Tropics and you really feel that in these five films.”
“I think this year’s selection exudes a truly Central American and Caribbean identity – something that is completely different from anywhere else in the world,” added IFF Panama director Pituka Ortega.
She added: “In previous editions, there have been some films with European or North American influences. But this year we feel much more of a regional identity – stylistically and in terms of narratives.”
4th IFF Panama’s Primera Mirada Projects
“Days of Light,” (Mauro Borges, Enrique Pérez Him, Julio López, Enrique Medrano, Sergio Ramírez, Gloria Carrión, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador)
“Untamed Helmets,” (Ernesto Villalobos, Costa Rica)
“En La Caliente,” (Fabien Pisani, Cuba)
“Gunpowder Heart,” (Camila Urrutia, Guatemala)
“Panama Radio, ” (Edgar Soberón, Panama)