Photogenic old town a favorite with filmmakers
PANAMA – Panama City’s Casco Viejo, or old quarter, is at the heart of IFF Panama, with many of the festival activities and screenings scheduled to take place in the area. Hotels in the Casco Viejo, most notably the American Trade Hotel, will also host many of the festival guests.
Screening venues in the Casco Viejo include the Teatro Nacional, the Anita Villalaz Theater and the Parque Quinto Centenario. The Teatro Nacional, which stages most of the festival’s gala screenings and red-carpet events, was designed in 1904 by the Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri and opened in 1908; the Anita Villalaz Theater, named after the renowned Panamanian actress, was once home to the country’s Supreme Court before being developed as part of a cultural center and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture). The Parque Quinto Centenario, on the Pacific shore, will offer free outdoor screenings for thousands of the city’s residents during the festival.
The Casco Viejo was originally built in 1673 after the near-total destruction of the original city in 1671 by the pirate Henry Morgan. It was conceived as a walled city to protect its settlers against future pirate attacks. Panama City is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, and most of city’s main monuments are located in Casco Viejo. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Since undergoing redevelopment, the old quarter has become one of the city’s main tourist attractions, second only to the Panama Canal. Its beauty has not been lost on filmmakers and has been used by Eon Productions for James Bond film “Quantum of Solace” (2008), directed by Marc Forster, and for John Boorman’s 2001 adaptation of John le Carre’s “The Tailor of Panama.” In “Quantum of Solace” the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, which houses the Anita Villalaz Theater, doubled as the Andean Grand Hotel in La Paz. Both “Quantum of Solace” and “The Tailor of Panama” used the shell of the old Club de Clases y Tropas.
Reflecting the diversity of locations on offer in Panama, “Quantum of Solace” also saw Bond (Daniel Craig) in Colon, at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, which doubled in the film as Haiti’s Port au Prince.