Film and ArtsIFF Panamá Channel

IFF Panamá Channel

By: Winnie T. Sittón
Photos: Winnie T. Sittón and Archives

If you find yourself flying on a Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 Premium Aircraft with a personalized onboard entertainment system, I invite you to discover the IFF Panama Channel: a space dedicated exclusively to the best of Latin American cinema. You can enjoy successful regional films that have been shown at some of the most important film festivals in the world and taken home awards. And every so often, like this month (see the schedule on page 10), you can watch a gem of Spanish cinematography.

This channel was the result of an agreement in which the International Film Festival of Panama (better known as IFF Panama) selects the films and Copa Airlines shows them on its flights. This innovative partnership enriches onboard entertainment while simultaneously serving as a permanent showcase to introduce Latin America’s excellent cinema to the public.

IFF Panama Executive Director Pituka Ortega Heilbron is enthusiastic about this initiative and describes its far-reaching effects. “We are the only film festival with its own airline channel. Currently, approximately three million passengers have access to this channel, since not all the aircraft have individual entertainment screens, but over time, the screens will be standard on all the airline’s planes. These films could reach around fifteen million passengers a year. This positions us as a festival committed to disseminating Latin American cinema.”

The channel was introduced on a small scale last year, with an initial selection of eleven films that reflected the different realities of Latin America, to see how passengers would respond to this new entertainment package. The IFF Panama Director is satisfied with the figures to date.

At the end of February, the IFF Panama Channel had registered 170,617 views. The three most-watched films were Carpinteros, a Dominican film written and directed by José María Cabral; the Panamanian movie Salsipuedes, co-directed by Ricardo Aguilar Navarro and Manolito Rodríguez; and the Chilean production Rara, directed by Pepa San Martín and written by Alicia Scherson. The three dramas deal with social and cultural themes of our region, which are very different from those addressed by Hollywood’s huge mass entertainment machine. Pituka Ortega Heilbron feels that the large number of people selecting the channel and watching these films is a clear sign that the general public is indeed interested in a different kind of cinema, one in which they see themselves reflected.

The IFF Panama Channel enters a new phase this year. Copa Airlines and the festival organization have decided to place more emphasis on promoting the channel to give more passengers a chance to enjoy this window on cinema. The plan is not limited to informing people that they have the option of viewing good Latin American movies; the key lies in ensuring that the platform serves to educate the public about regional filmmakers and encourage passengers to discover their work and appreciate the quality of Latin American cinema. Audiences will get a sense of how the project can be a force for integration.

“Our company vision aspires to unite our continent through Latin American cinema, taking it as far as possible and bringing it close to our travelers,” commented Marco Ocando, Senior Marketing and E-business Director for Copa Airlines.

“Imagine what it means for an airline that transports so many people to have the power to bring together all those films in which we see ourselves. That’s an incredible asset! I think we cannot even begin to understand the impact that this could eventually have,” concluded Pituka Ortega Heilbron.