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John Travolta, Gregory Nava illuminate the 12th IFF Panama

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John Travolta, Gregory Nava illuminate the 12th IFF Panama

Featuring John Travolta, Gregory Nava and a host of other celebrities lighting up the 12e The Panama International Film Festival ended Sunday on a high, with an overall attendance that exceeded expectations.

Pituka Ortega-Heilbron, chairman of IFF Panama, spoke at the closing ceremony at the Canal Museum and called this latest edition a vibrant rebirth for the festival.

“We have been affected by the pandemic phenomenon, and we certainly do not want to complain or victimize ourselves, because fighting is synonymous with life, but this festival has fought tirelessly for the past four years to thrive.”

“There is still a lot of ground to cover. We must work together – government, community groups and businesses – to understand how important the cultural and creative industries are for the growth of our country’s economy and society,” said Minister of Culture Giselle González Villarué, who later told Variety that a delayed feasibility study was underway that would explore establishing a major studio facility in Panama. As the May 5 general election approaches, there is a sense of uncertainty within the country’s creative industries, which rely on some state support. “Let’s hope the next government will support the festival as much as we do… you have my support today, tomorrow and forever,” she promised.

Winners Ana Endara, Duiren Wagua and Pilar Moreno

The ceremony concluded with the announcement of the two winners in the Su Mirada section of the festival, which honors female filmmakers, and the Copa Airline Audience Award went to “Bila Burba,” the debut documentary by Panamanian indigenous filmmaker Duiren Wagua.

The documentary played to a packed screening, beating a strong list of contenders including Michel Franco’s ‘Memory’, Italy’s ‘Io Capitano’, Japan’s ‘Monster’ and Aki Kaurismäki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’.

A stunned Wagua said: “I am extremely grateful for this Audience Award. It is incredibly moving to know that not only me, but my entire community, my people and the Guna Dule nation are being seen. Our stories reach all of Panama, and we hope to cross borders as well.”

“This award is important because it gives visibility to our social struggle that took place in 1925, which is about to celebrate its centenary, and because it inspires current social, political and cultural struggles,” he said of his document that follows the annual live broadcast. street reenactments of the ‘Dule Revolution’, where indigenous communities fought back against the police.

John Travolta’s presentation of his musical rom-com classic ‘Grease’ drew an unprecedented audience, while American-Mexican director Gregory Nava regaled the audience with anecdotes about the making of his 1983 Oscar-nominated drama ‘El Norte’, which concentrates on a topic that is still current. relevant today, if not even more relevant: people escaping political persecution and economic hardship. He revealed that his film, about a Guatemalan brother and sister who flee to the US after a massacre in their indigenous community, is still banned in Guatemala, where he received death threats on his last visit.

Speaking about the various activities of the festival, ranging from the Industry Day to the free screenings at the Mirador del Pacífico, the new festival director Karla Quintero commented: “I am very happy because I had an exceptional team of staff, volunteers and everyone involved was on the project that gave me the confidence and guidance to ensure every detail came together seamlessly.”

Spanish-born Panamanian Pilar Moreno (“For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum”) trumped thirteen other contenders for the Su Mirada Development Award with her docufiction project “The Sparkling Girl and Other Protests” (“La Chica destellante y otras protestas”), including a $5,000 reward. The hybrid feature film focuses on the members of La Perseverancia, a mutual support group for people with mental disorders who create their own artistic representations of madness, a subject often stigmatized and shunned by society.

“Mental health is a topic I don’t think we talk about enough, yet it is fundamental and affects us all,” says Moreno, a trained psychiatrist. “This award is important because the jury thought it was a valuable film to make and recognized the urgency and relevance of both the film and the subject. The boost from IFF’s Su Mirada Fund will be a great help in starting our search for resources to make the film,” she shared. Variety.

Ana Endara (“Reinas”) took home the Su Mirada Post-Production Award for her gripping drama “Querido Trópico,” starring Chilean Paulina Garcia (“Gloria”), which carries a $10,000 cash prize. “Receiving an award like this, just a week after completing the final edit of the film, is an incredible boost. It’s like meeting someone who says, “I believe in you” in a moment of great vulnerability, like the birth of a movie. And for me, because this is my first fiction project, it is even more important,” said Endara, who has made four documentaries.

“Querido Trópico” revolves around a wealthy woman (played by Garcia) with early dementia and her initially difficult relationship with her caregiver, a pregnant and lonely immigrant, with her own problems. Commenting on Garcia’s career-best performance, Endara said Variety: “I felt so supported by her during the shoot. It was such a wonderful experience that I am already preparing a new film with her, ‘Victoria en los nubes’, set along the Panama-Costa Rica border.”

The 12e IFF Panama ran from April 4 to 7.