The International Film Festival Panamá Puts a Spotlight on Central America’s Blossoming Cinema

Lead Photo: 'Medea' still. Courtesy of International Film Festival Panama
'Medea' still. Courtesy of International Film Festival Panama
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With over 70 films, the Festival Internacional de Cine Panamá is making sure that local audiences get a chance to see the cinematic achievements that may not otherwise grace their screens. The fest kicks off with Sebastian Lelio’s Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman and closes with Panama City-born Abner Benaim’s music doc, Ruben Blades Is Not My NameBut in between, the program at this annual event will boast its most ambitious roster of films yet. Since Remezcla is heading to the fest for the first time this year, we’ve combed through and have picked a handful that those looking for quality cinema should definitely keep in mind.

Those pledging to watch more films by women filmmakers have plenty of options to check out. For starters, there’s Lucrecia Martel‘s masterful Zama. Shot as if in a fever dream, this historical epic tells the story of Zama, an officer of the Spanish Crown born in South America who hopes to be relieved of his post in the remote town where he’s seen his life stagnate over the years.

Elsewhere Laura Mora‘s thriller Matar a Jesus (Killing Jesus) dramatizes the culture of violence that can still be felt in Medellin, Colombia. Borrowing from her own personal history, Mora follows Paula, a young Colombian student who decides to take justice into her own hands after seeing her father gunned down in front of her.

Other filmmakers like Anahí Berneri (Alanis) and Hilda Hidalgo (Violeta al fin) are using their respective films to tackle characters that are seldom seen on screen. In the former, Berneri turns her candid lens on a young sex worker who’s trying to get by and care for her son as she faces discrimination in her native Buenos Aires. In the latter, Hidalgo introduces viewers to a recently divorced, 72-year-old who must now face the bank that’s trying to take her childhood home away from her.

The Central American and Caribbean showcase includes a range of dramas and docs like Diciembres, where ten years after the US invasion of Panama, three estranged survivors are nudged towards reconciliation by the person they lost that gruesome night. In the documentary Heredera del viento, Nicaraguan filmmaker Gloria Carrión Fonseca looks back at her childhood, narrating her memories of her parents’ involvement in the country’s civil war. And in Alexandra Latishev’s Medea, a young woman hides her pregnancy from her friends and family.

With programs that range from “Family Screenings” to “Stories from Central America and The Caribbean,” IFF Panama has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for Colombian animated tales, French LGBT dramas, or Mexican melodramas.

The International Film Festival Panama runs April 5-11, 2018.