BRIGHT FUTURES: PANAMA x2 AT IFF ROTTERDAM 2020

Enrique Castro Ríos

Something extraordinary took place for Panamanian cinema this January 2020: two films from our isthmus took part in the 49th edition of the prestigious International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in the Netherlands. The soft-spokenly powerful Panquiaco, by Ana Elena Tejera, and the devastating Tierra adentro or Inland, by Mauro Colombo, are the two peregrine pearls of our emerging cinematography that held their World and European premieres, respectively, at the flagship festival of Europe’s largest port city.

Rotterdam is one of the main ports of entry into the world of A-level festivals for innovative films by emerging artists and thus for countries with incipient cinemas, thanks to its stated “focus [...] on recent work by talented new filmmakers.” Furthermore, Rotterdam is one of the largest festivals on the planet, both for its vast and diverse audience (more than 330,000 admissions each year, far more than the seventeen people who attended the then Film International Rotterdam’s first opening night in 1972), as for its “industry activities”, that is, events that encourage the development of new talent and sponsor different stages in the realization of films that, indeed, explore new narrative forms. The presence of two Panamanian films within the same version of IFF Rotterdam is quite significant and displays the fruits of the labour of a variety of public, private and international organizations that have promoted the development of our country’s cinematography, including great efforts by IFF Panama. But above all it rewards the impetus, talent, perseverance and vision of Ana Elena Tejera and Mauro Colombo, brave artists for their exploration of new ways to involve their audiences in their stories, and the human teams that supported them, a diversity of local filmmakers and foreign talent who chose Panama as a home and as a source of inspiration. It’s a great recognition for both filmmakers, as well as for the nation between the seas.

Panquiaco and Inland participated in Bright Futures, the most important of the four sections of the Festival. Each year within Bright Futures, fifteen debut films by “young, up-and-coming filmmakers who enrich contemporary cinema with innovative, original and daring work” are chosen; fifteen films which are holding either their world premiere (first exhibition ever in their festival trajectory) or international premiere (first exhibition outside their country of origin) at Rotterdam. These fifteen films take part in the Bright Futures Competition for a prize of €10,000.00 for future projects by their directors. Panquiaco took part in Bright Futures Competition because of its extraordinary poetic level and for enjoying its world premiere at IFFR 2020 last Saturday, January 25.

In addition to Panama, Rotterdam and Bright Futures, both films share a mystical space, Panquiaco in regards to nostalgia and absence, Inland in relation to that simultaneously concrete as abstract entity we call “jungle”. Inland suggests itself more as a “documentary” that portrays parallel realities in the Darien Gap; situated in Gunayala, on the other side of the continental divide, Panquiaco proposes a “hybrid” film that mixes reality and fiction to explore the impossibility of returning to one’s origin. But beyond genres, beyond whether they are documentary or fiction or hybrid, they are cinema, cinema with circular, cyclical narratives that reflect on liminal realms and what’s both tangible and intangible within the human experience.

The International Film Festival Panama is pleased to have contributed to the completion and exhibition of both films. Panquiaco won our Primera Mirada works-in-progress fund toward its post-production during our 2019 edition, in which Inland held its national premiere and won the audience prize for Best Documentary Revista K. Inland had its world premiere at the Havana Film Festival in Cuba in December 2018, and following IFF Panama its successful festival path led it to the Curaçao International Film Festival Rotterdam (associated with the IFFR), where it received the Yellow Robin Award for Best Film, and the renowned Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico. On January 2020 the journeys and quests of Panquiaco and Inland crossed paths in Rotterdam.

Enrique Castro Ríos
[email protected] 

Our following blogs will share specific reflections to
Panquiaco and Inland, along with interviews with their directors.

You can find more information about the IFF Rotterdam
under the link https://iffr.com/en