Enrique Castro Ríos

The Panama International Film Festival, in concert with national and international health authorities, has made a difficult but important decision: to postpone this year’s Festival —your Festival, our Festival, their Festival— to help mitigate the impact of COVID–19’s expansion in the Panamanian nation and population.

Now, please take note: to postpone, that is, literally, to place it (or in this case, schedule it) later. Not to cancel, not to call off, much less to give up: to postpone. Just as one of my colleagues has stated, “The word ‘cancel’ has been canceled from our vocabulary.” To postpone. Because just as we are deeply concerned about the life, health and well-being of our countless accomplices, both those who passionately partake in the realization of the Festival and those who enjoy it to the last drop, we are also deeply concerned about the  artistic-cinematographic life, health and well-being of each and all of you, and each and all of us.

That’s why, in the coming weeks, always in accordance with the Ministry of Health and pertinent national stakeholders, we will announce our new dates so that we may together enjoy the best of Central American, Ibero-American and international cinema and celebrate this great fête that we so appropriately call, Cinema Is Life.

For the most curious and restless, we’ll tease you with a few of the general issues to be showcased in our ninth edition, issues which reflect patterns in the preoccupations of local, regional and international filmmakers and cineastes:

Indigenous worldviews and struggles: Numerous films from the Americas sensitively reflect many of the present concerns and struggles of the first nations of Abya Yala; celebrate the impressive achievements and great cultural wealth of native peoples; or shed light on distressing moments of a ruthless conquest that did not stop in a remote 16th century but which brutally extends —and is courageously resisted— up to this day.

Environmental concerns: in addition to our Green Programme, specifically composed of films about the environment, which in this edition reflect the aquamarine hues of the seas and oceans, many other Latin, Ibero-American and international productions, both documentaries, fictions, hybrids and new technologies, reflect strong environmental concerns and the impact of green issues on real and fictional, individuals and collective characters. Sedimentation, forest fires, large-scale land appropriation and the poorly-named practice of “artisanal” mining are a handful of the world-wide environmental crimes these films are courageously exposing.

Migrants and refugees: another great challenge of our time, reflected in numerous films from the Americas and from other regions of the world, which document those who leave their homes aboard fragile rafts or simply on foot, escaping the economic violence of neoliberalism or the physical and martial violence of authoritarian regimes.

All ages: Although Latin America is characterized by having a young population, demographically speaking, many of its most recent films include older protagonists and observe their interactions with younger generations.

So here we are, at IFF headquarters, working like “hormiguitas”, tiny little ants, to make sure you enjoy the best film programming on the planet. Take my word as a former Cub Scout: here I’ve been, surrounded by a young, dynamic and committed team that works endlessly in the enormous, complex logistics of a Festival’s organization, be it administration, programming, production, location scouting, transportation, equipment and technical challenges, industry activities, international co-ordination and a myriad details which we gladly face to offer you each Festival. Working with the conviction that, after nine hard-worked years, IFF Panama is already a part of our national heritage. Thus, from our “hormiguero” or anthill we remind you: Cinema Is Life!

Enrique Castro Ríos
[email protected]