Panama could soon be moving towards creating an international film event that would focus the eyes of the world on the Isthmus and provide a major boost for tourism.
On Thursday last week October7) Henk Van Der Kolk, founder of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) the world’s biggest, flew into Panama and drove straight to a high level meeting with representatives of the government to discuss the viability of starting a similar event, ultimately linked to creating a film school to serve Latin America..
The head of the Tourism authority, Salomon Shamah, The Minister Trade and Industries, Roberto Henríquez and the Director of the National Institute of Culture (INAC); María Eugenia Herrera, met with Mr Van der Kolk along with T. Rob Brown, Founder/Chairman of Artsmarketing Services, Inc, Yasser Williams Arosemena legal counsel, and David Young, publisher of Newsroom, to discuss the shared interest in creating an International Film Festival in Panama.
Such a festival , to be called Festival des las Americas would attract the best of the international film industry, including movie stars, producers, directors, and international journalists to Panama.
The Ministers of Tourism, Trade and Industries, Henk Van Der Kolk and. Brown, reached consensus that the time is right to unite efforts and develop a world class event on the Isthmus
Henk Van Der Kolk and his partner Bill Marshall had the vision during the seventies of creating a market for the international film industry in CanadaToday, 35 years later the Toronto International Film Festival is known worldwide, and attracts stars and film executives from around the world, earning multi- millions of dollars for the hostcountry.
“The situation of the film industry in Panama is very similar to what the Canadian experience was before TIFF was created. The success attained by Panamanian filmmakers in the international markets and the social and financial conditions of the country indicates that Panama would be a magnificent host for an international Film Festival”, said Van Der Kolk.
“Panama is a destination where people linked to the film industry would want to come to. Getting to Panama is easy; it has wonderful beaches, exotic jungles and a cosmopolitan life. Panama is unique”.
We are very excited to have Ms. Diana Sanchez, the Director of International Programming for TIFF since 1999 on board as well, said Van Der Kolk.
“Diana Sanchez is one of the most influential people in Spanish-language film today” said Brown. In addition to TIFF, Ms. Sanchez consults with film festivals around the world including Miami and Rotterdam Film Festivals. Ms. Sanchez programed 18 Spanish-language films at TIFF this year alone.
Ministers Shamah and Henriquez proposed the integration of a team made up by the Film Comission of Panama, the Ministry of Trade and Industries, the National Institute of Culture, the Tourism Authority of Panama, among other entities, to develop along with the work team of Van Der Kolk and Brown.”
Part of the dream is to build a Festival Center which will include a film school said . Van Der Kolk. “TIFF waited 35 years to build their center – we want to start working on our center right from the beginning.”
Funding will be a key issue discussed as the team develops the business plan for the Festival. Brown is an experienced fundraiser.
He founded Artsmarketing Services Inc. in 1982 which become one of the most important fundraising companies in North America, with over 3,800 employees in offices across the United States, Canada and Australia. Their clients include most of the major symphony orchestras, theatre, opera, ballet, museums, art galleries and hospitals in North America.
Brown and his wife, Yolanda Van Der Kolk (Henk’s daughter) live year-round in Santa Clara, and Mr. Van Der Kolk and his wife Yanka will be moving to Panama full-time on November 1.
Mr. Brown was excited to announce a lead gift has already been secured from Yasser (Alex) Williams Arosemena of the law firm Arosemena & Arosemena. The donation will go toward funding a planning study to determine what is needed to make El Festival de las Americas a success. “This show of faith is very encouraging at these early stage” said Brown.
Henk van Der Kolk will carved the ceremonial turkey at the Canada Association of Panama Thanksgiving dinner onSaturday at the Sheraton Atlapa, along with Leslie Ducret founder and director of FANLYC, (Fundacion Amgigos del Nino con leucemia y cancer)