Lured by the tropical weather and beauty of Panama, Henk and Yanka Van der Kolk, their daughter Yolanda, and her husband Rob Brown came to this country from Canada in 2010, contemplating the possibility of moving here. Henk, who is one of the founders of the incredibly successful Toronto International Film Festival, decided to explore the possibility of creating a film festival in Panama. It was not difficult to come to the conclusion that several elements for success were already present in the country: proximity to important centers of film production, both in North and South America; a Panama City in the midst of much of the air traffic between the Americas, and a government interested in developing the cinematographic industry.
In Panama, the Van der Kolks found a group of talented enthusiasts willing to support and endorse Henk and Rob’s initiative to get the project started. Thanks to Pituka Ortega Heilbron, Yasser Williams, Diana Sánchez of the Toronto Film Festival, Aram Cisneros, and Leroy Sheffer, and with the support of Abner Benaim and Luis Pacheco of the film community, the project was presented to the Minister of Tourism, Salomón Shamah, and the Minister of Commerce and Industry (MICI), Roberto Henríquez; the Directors of the Panamá Film Commission, Laura Emerick and later Arianne Benedetti, and the National Institute of Culture (INAC), María Eugenia Herrera, who expressed their unanimous support of this initiative.
The only thing we were missing was the unprecedented sponsorship of the Minister of Commerce and Industry, now under the leadership of Ricardo Quijano, to make the festival a reality. Now we’re in our third edition, full of enthusiasm and with big plans to bring the best of cinema to Panama once more.