Bocas Del Toro, Panama has become a haven for ex-pat retirees. While their introduction to the local community hasn’t come without its complications, a bigger threat are the voracious corporations eager to turn the province into the latest Caribbean hot spot. This engaging and revealing documentary tells the personal stories of the people who call the exquisitely beautiful area home and would like to keep it that way. From an American couple who’ve invested not just in their home but in their Panamanian community to a local businessman turned political hopeful, the characters and stories Prado tracks speak to the larger global issue of communities, new and old, under siege from faceless corporations. [Description courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Narrative Feature and Documentary Competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
“Paraiso For Sale”
Directed By: Anayansi Prado
Producer: Anayansi Prado
Cinematographer: Victor Mares
Editor: Esteban Arguello
Responses courtesy of “Paraiso For Sale” director Anayansi Prado
Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?
A documentary about the impact the migration of American retirees and developers are having on the community of Bocas del Toro, Panama.
OK: Now tell us what it’s really about.
What price would you pay for paradise? Bocas Del Toro, Panama has become a haven for ex-pat retirees. While their introduction to the local community hasn’t come without its complications, a bigger threat are the voracious corporations eager to turn the province into the latest Caribbean hot spot.
This engaging and revealing documentary tells the personal stories of the people who call the exquisitely beautiful area home and would like to keep it that way. Filmmaker Anayansi Prado returns to her homeland to document the effects the fast-growing migration of American retirees and developers to Bocas del Toro is having on the local community. Feliciano, a Ngobe Bugle indigenous leader, organizes his people in an effort to protect their land from the government and foreign developers. Local boatsman Dario runs for Mayor with the hopes of bringing change to development in Bocas del Toro. American retiree couple Karan and Willy spent their life savings on their dream home in paradise, only to pay the real price for it later. The characters and stories Prado tracks speak to the larger global issue of communities, new and old, under siege from faceless corporations.
“Paraiso for Sale” explores issues of modern day colonialism, residential tourism, global gentrification and reverse migration as it reveals that immigration between Latin America and the US is not just a one-way street.
The other side of the coin…
I’m originally from Panama. I moved to the US when I was a teenager and studied film at Boston University. This is my third documentary. I make films to take people on a journey through someone else’s life, situation or to a place they’ve never been to before. To be exposed to something new and realize through the process that as humans, we are more alike and connected than we realize. In my films, I like to draw out human emotions as a tool for the audience to connect with a place or character. The language of human emotions is a universal language that can often break barriers of judgment or pre-conceived notions that rationalization can’t. Regardless of whether the main topics of my films are political or controversial, my ultimate goal is to connect the audience with my characters’ stories and struggles on a human level.
My inspiration came from wanting to tell a story in my home country, Panama. This is my first film there, where I was born and raised, so it meant a lot to me to make this film. At the same time, I’ve lived in the U.S. for over 15 years now and consider it to be my home as well. So, the idea was to make a film that had both of the cultures that I’m part of, and so I found the topic of Americans retiring to Panama. The more I learned about the situation, the more I realized that it was a form of reverse migration. My previous films dealt with immigrants and immigration from Latin America to the US. This film is the other side of the coin. So, in a personal and creative level all the elements I’m interested in and can relate to came together. Furthermore, once I begin making the film, I found other stories, such as the struggles of the indigenous people in Panama over their land being used for foreign development and was very moved and inspired to include their story as a major part of the film. Their struggle is one that has gotten very little international media coverage, and so I hope the film will make people aware of their situation and, ultimately, aware of the consequences to the choices Americans make and how they can impact other people around the world.
I didn’t want a predictable film…
My biggest challenge in making this film was to look beyond what is on the surface in order to avoid stereotyping. For example, it would’ve been easy to group all Americans as the villains in the film and the Panamanian community as the helpless victims, but that was not the case in this situation. I searched for the truth and found it to not be so black and white. I was born and raised in Panama until I was 14 years old when my family moved to the US; I could completely understand and sympathize with the Panamanians and I could also comprehend where the Americans where coming from. Being able to go back between the two different cultures was a great advantage. The film surprises you in that it breaks your pre-conceived notions and stereotypes and shows the complexity of individuals in one situation. I didn’t want to have a predictable film. The result is a thought provoking film that does not point fingers at anyone but does raise questions to what could be more practical and fair solutions to the situation of what I like to call global gentrification.
I believe audiences will be surprise to see how many Americans are migrating to Latin America; Immigration between Latin America and the US is not a one way street. Just like Latin American immigrants have an impact in the US, so do Americans moving southwards. What these migrations have in common is that they are going to foreign lands looking for the American Dream. For example, American retirees who retiree in Panama often do because they can’t afford doing so in the US. It’s gentrification all over again, but what makes it interesting is that it is on a global level. I believe audiences will also be moved by the situation of the Ngobe Bugle indigenous group and the land issues they are facing due to foreign development. Their story has gotten some international media coverage, but not enough. Ultimately, people who watch the film will be able to relate as they’ve most likely thought about what are they going to do once they retire. Moving abroad has become a popular option but rarely have people seen this side of the story – and it’s one filled with eye opening situations that are interesting and mainly thought-provoking.
Check out these prior participants in the Los Angles Film Festival, courtesy of SnagFilms [Disclaimer: SnagFilms is indiewire’s parent company]
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