Yes Panama does have a film industry but it is in its very early infancy. In July 2007 Law 36 was passed creating incentives that make it attractive to film in Panama. The Panama Film Commission created under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is a one stop shop for companies interested in filming in Panama. Some of the incentives are tax breaks, exemptions on importing goods for the film industry, customs and migration special visas for film staff among others. The Panama Film Commission is set up to help the film maker with all of these issues as well as permits, location scouting and a database of Panamanian film professionals. Panama has the great advantage of having a multitude of locations within a small geographic space as well as labor costs that are lower than in developed countries.
Several movies have used Panama as location with the most famous being the last James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. These facilities have helped spur the growth of national film. The local studio Apertura Films run by Mr. Abner Benaim shot a film entirely in Panama called EL CHANCE. The movie is a comedy based in Panama about two maids who get tired of being workers and decide to kidnap their employers for ransom. The movie plays on the situations that the domestic service goes through in some cases very low salaries, long shifts, and even sexual harassment.
EL CHANCE was shot in seven weeks starting on June 2008 and the editing was in charge of Alberto del Toro from Spain. The production is in the hands of Mexican producer Matthias Ehrenberg known for movies such as “Rosario Tijeras”, “Sexo, pudor y lágrimas” and “Vivir Mata”. This movie was one of the first movies in Latin America to be filmed using the camera red one, used by Steven Soderbergh in the movie about the Che Guevara. It is the first Panamanian movie to receive international funding from the Ibermedia Program who supplied 10% of the budget for this production. Mr. Benaim himself studied Film Directing and Film in Tel Aviv, Israel and Direction of Actors in the International Film School in Cuba.
Mr. Benaim says he is very positive that the movie will launch Panamanian film making and will be quite successful in itself as its producer, Matthias Ehrenberg has several movies nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes under his belt.
EL CHANCE has already had good reception and has been shown in international festivals such as the 35th Film Festival in Huelva for Iberamerican film last November. It was also shown in Habana, Cuba in the 31st International Festival of New Latinamerican Film this past December.
For more information on Panama: PanamaQmagazine