PanaFest LA Began as a Panamanian Showcase, Now It’s a Celebration of Latin American Cinema

Lead Photo: 'Matamoros' still courtesy of PanaFest.
'Matamoros' still courtesy of PanaFest.
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Returning to Los Angeles for its third edition, PanaFest, presented by the Panamanian International Film Festival and co-produced with NewFilmmakers LA, is a one-day event screening recent short and feature works from the Central American country and Latin America in general, as well as several US Latino works. The full lineup of films, panels, and cultural activities will take place on November 4, 2017 at the South Park Center in Downtown LA.

PanaFest’s artistic director is Panamanian actor, Carlos Carrasco, who has appeared in beloved Hollywood films such as Speed, Blood In Blood Out, Star Trek, and more recently on HBO’s hit series Insecure. “In the current climate of division and cultural confusion, we are excited to be leveraging the power of film and storytelling to illuminate what connects us and erases borders that keep us apart,” said Carrasco about the festival’s role in the United States.

Leading the Panamanian cinematic delegation is documentary feature Los Matamoros by Delfina Vidal, about Marta Matamoros, a dressmaker-turned-activist and union leader who fought for the rights of Panamanian workers: a Panamanian Dolores Huerta. The film opened theatrically across its home country last April. Animation is represented thanks to Marta Noemi Noriega’s La Cucarachita Mandi, which is a sassy 2D animated short centered on a glamorous cockroach. From the city of Colón, fiction short La Sala de los Ninis explores the crime-ridden Bamboo Lane barrio where young people “ni estudian ni trabajan” given the socioeconomic struggles of the area. Meanwhile, El Hijo de la Libertad by Arturo Dupont gets political with a story about hacking and espionage.

There is also a hefty part of the slate focused on US Latino talent. Two shorts by New York-based filmmaker Adrian Manzano will screen as part of PanaFest: The Audition and The Internship. Lorena Gordon, who last year was part of the Hola Mexico Film Festival’s program Tomorrow’s Filmmaker Today, will present her latest work Times Like These, while Jean Paul San Pedro’s experiential vision, 704 Spring Street, will give viewers an unconventional tour of Los Angeles. Venezuela-set short Spark, from US-based Mexican director Juan Martinez Vera, adds another festival to its long list of appearances around the world.

Movies from El Salvador are often a rarity at festivals, but LA audiences will have the chance to see acclaimed Salvadoran short, Mi Tesoro, by Michael Flores. The magical story of a maid who discovers a Civil War map and goes searching for a treasure in hopes of also finding her missing son has already screened at multiple festivals in the US. Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Spain are also present with a selection of recent shorts.

PanaFest takes place on November 4 in Downtown Los Angeles.