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Roberto Duran Movie Comes Back to Panama

Roberto Duran MovieMartinelli Government Says ‘No’ to Puerto Rico

The movie biography of Panama’s favorite son, boxer Roberto Duran, is back in the news again. The production site for the film “Hands of Stone”, starring Mexican actor Gael Garcia Berna and directed by Venezuelan Jonathan Jakubowicz is expected to be a blockbuster and was originally to be filmed in Puerto Rico.

Enter the Martinelli government. They have sensed that the Roberto Duran Movie could be a jump start for the movie industry in Panama. The result is a three million dollar support loan made possible through an accord between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and La Piedra Films, the company producing the Roberto Duran movie. Due to the subsidy loan the film’s budget will ride to $16 instead of $13 million. The $3 million loan will be returned to Panama’s Film Industry Support Fund when “Hands of Stone” premieres worldwide.

Why has the Panamanian government taken this action? There are several diverse reasons that form a chain of causes.

First there is national pride. During his years in the ring, Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard and was the WBC Lightweight Champion, WBC Welterweight Champion, WBA Light Middleweight Champion, WBC Middleweight Champion and WBA Junior Middleweight Champion. Duran won 104 out of 120 fights, 69 of them by knockout. According to Ricardo Quijano, the head of Panama’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, it is ‘unacceptable’ to have a film about a national hero made in a foreign land.

Another reason is economics. The Martinelli government expects to see an increase in tourism as a result of the movie. About 80% of the film’s production staff will be Panamanians. Producing the movie here will bring an estimated $7 million to Panama from money spent on hotels, food, locations, housing and employment.

Gael Garcia Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal who will play Roberto Duran

There are other aspects to the “Hands of Stone” saga. In April of last year, a new film law was passed after eight years in the works, that was pushed through by a dedicated team of local filmmakers and producers, led by producer Luis Pacheco, who were determined to revive a film industry in Panama. Their efforts are now paying off.

Panama Film Commission Director Arianne Marie Benedetti puts the effort in perspective, “Thanks to the support from the National Government, we will be able to motivate filmmakers, investors and society in general to take advantage of the benefits and incentives that the law offers… Cinema will become one of the growth industries in the growing Panamanian economy.”

In response to the loan and the law, director Pituka Ortega Heilbron, who co-founded Panama’s new Panama International Film Festival along with the Toronto film fest founder Henk Van Der Kolk, “Even if there’s just 25 of us, this is a good start… The festival was established to contribute to the promotion of local culture, push for the development of a local film industry, promote film education.”

What is the Panamanian film industry’s next step?

Heilbron has the answer. “We in Central America need to think beyond the local market. We must compete and be present in an international market like Latin America. There’s also a big Latin audience in the US, and a Spanish-speaking audience in Spain. So we need to set ourselves for that, train us, and rise to that level.”

There have been Hollywood-style movies made in Panama over recent years. Think The Tailor of Panama, starring Pierce Brosnan in 2000. James Bond came to town in Quantum of Solace starring Daniel Craig in 2007. John Travolta has filmed in Panama too.

And finally, what is Panama’s 61-year -old boxing icon doing nowadays? He owns the La Tasca de Duran restaurant in the El Cangrejo area of Panama City. He also appears regularly on television and at local sports and charity events.

Culture in Panama

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