Connecting with the Canal

Pablo Schverdfinger (left), co-producer of Panama Canal Stories, speaking with Anthony Hylton (right), minister of industry, investment and commerce, at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston, on Wednesday night. Looking on is Panamaian ambassador to Jamaica, Alexis Sandoval. 

THUNDEROUS applause greeted Panama Canal Stories at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston, on Wednesday night.

The movie is part of the week-long inaugural Jamaica Promotions Corporation's (JAMPRO) Jamaica Film Festival which ends today.

"It's one film done by five different Panamanian directors and has a lot to do with Jamaica. In the beginning of the building of the Panama Canal, a lot of people came from the West Indies, especially Jamaica and Barbados, and they stayed there," Argentina-born Pablo Schverdfinger, executive producer and co-producer, told the Jamaica Observer.

Schverdfinger, 47, who is known for work on films like A Boyfriend for My Wife (2008), Hide (2008) and A Matter of Principles (2009), explained the idea behind the Panama Canal Stories.

"Panama is beginning its history in film-making. Looking at the past is always the best way to start telling these stories. These are stories that have never been told," he said.

Panama Canal Stories peeks into the lives of families affected by the 77.1-kilometre man-made waterway's construction. Spanning a century, from 1913 to 2013, the storylines are of survival, resilience and hope.

The movie's directors are Carolina Borrero (1913), Pinky Mon (1950), Abner Benaim (1964), Luis Franco Brantley (1977) and Pituka Ortega-Heilbron (2013).

Borrero's plot tells the tragic love story of a Jamaican canal worker, played by Jamaican Andre Morris, who accidentally kills his foreman and flees leaving his fiancée who is played by American actress Lakisha May of Broadwalk Empire fame.

1950 looks at the son of the deceased canal's chief engineer who yearns to integrate with Panamanian society.

Benaim's story follows a cab driver (and self-appointed Panamanian spy) who chauffeurs two American diplomats.

Luis Franco Brantley's 1964 looks at university student's protest of American occupation, while Ortega-Heilbron's tale is one of reconciliation and reunion.

Construction of the canal started in 1881 and ended in 1914. Thousands of Caribbean nationals, including Jamaicans, worked on the massive waterway which connects the Atlantic Ocean, via the Caribbean Sea, to the Pacific Ocean.

"Even today, you can see traces of Jamaica in Panama. If you go to Colón city, you can see a lot of people with Jamaican background and heritage. So I think in a way, the history of Jamaica and Panama have a way where they cross. The people will find themselves reflected on the screen," said Schverdfinger.

Published Date: 
Saturday, July 11, 2015