GROUP G

Info

Country: Panama
Original Title: Historias del canal
Director: Carolina Borrero, Pinky Mon, Luis Franco Brantley,
Abner Benaim and Pituka Ortega-Heilbron
Release: 2014
Genre: Drama
IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes

17.02.2020: This review was first published on 10.06.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.

Hello! Welcome to Ulven Reviews!

Panama Canal Stories, or Historias del canal, is an anthology movie that counted with the collaboration of several directors. It tells five stories, each one from a different point in time, but all regarding the Panama Canal.

Canal.02.jpg

World Cup Historic

The Panamanian National team started in 1937, and after almost 81 years of existence, Russia was the World Cup debut for Los Canaleros, after a heroic classification, winning 2-1 against Costa Rica.

Panama was considered one of the weakest teams in the World Cup, and they confirmed this with their performance, losing every game and scoring only two goals, one of them a Tunisia own-goal.

However, we have to remember that Russia was their debut at a worldwide level, with a very old squad, and only minor league players. Let’s give them time, maybe they can come up with better squads in the future.

Prelude

The Panama Canal is fundamental for the history of Panama, and also a crucial geographical spot for the World, because it connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Before the construction of the Canal, to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean (and vice-versa), you had to sail around South America, which could be dangerous and take a lot of time.

The idea of a Canal in Panama began when the country was still part of the Spanish Empire in the 1530s. But in the 16th Century, the task was impossible.

1886_bas_obispo
Excavator at work, in Bas Obispo, 1886

In 1881, when Panama was a province of Colombia, the French began their project, which suffered from floods, landslides, venomous jungle animals, and diseases caused by mosquitoes, especially yellow fever. Eventually, the French went bankrupt and had to abandon the project.

The United States got involved in 1903. President Theodore Roosevelt tried to acquire the land to build the canal, but the Colombian Senate refused. Then, the US decided to back Panama in the separation from Colombia, which eventually happened in November of the same year.

Panama Canal Zone.jpg
Panama Canal Zone: large ‘mosquito-proofed’ houses with screened porches. Photograph, ca. 1910. | From Wellcome Collection

Immediately after the separation, Panama and the US signed a treaty giving rights of a zone in perpetuity to the United States, where, in 1904, the construction of the Canal began.

The Americans used the structure left by the French, plus a lot of dynamite to conclude the works. The majority of the workers were from the Caribean, working under heavy oppression from the Americans.

In the 60s, the tensions began to rise between Panamanians and the Americans inside the zone. Demonstrations culminated in the Martyrs’ Day, in which protesting students died during riots taking place in Panama City and the American Zone.

Flag_Demonstration_2.jpg
Flag Demonstration on the boundary between Panama and the Canal Zone | From Panama Canal Commission

After these deaths, the situation escalated. The riots lasted three days, and even the US military got involved, leaving a death toll of 28 people, mostly Panamanians, that included a six-month-old baby girl, gassed by the Americans.

Only in 1977, 13 years after the Martyr’s Day, the American President, Jimmy Carter, signed a treaty with General Omar Torrijos, accepting to hand the zone over to Panama. From 1979 to 1999, the Canal Zone was extinct, and the control was divided between Panama and the United States.

Historias del canal

Directed by Carolina Borrero, the first story is set in 1913, Clarice Thompson (played by Lakisha May) and Philip (played by Andre Morris) two young workers in the construction of the Canal, engaged and about to get married have their plans changed when Jeremiah (played by Henry Twohy), a severe American, starts to oppress the workers.

Directed by Pinky Mon, the second story, set in 1950 is about Jake Wright (played by Carlos Eduardo Goldstein Alemán), a boy raised in the American Zone inside Panama, has to leave to mainland US with his alcoholic mother (played by Kathleen Wise), after the death of his father.

Kisha May (Clarice jones) Lakisha May Clarice Jones Thompson historias del canal panama stories andre morris
Philip (Andre Morris) and Clarice Thompson (Lakisha May)

The third story, directed by Luis Franco Brantley, sets in 1964. José (played by Ivan González), a high school photographer, falls in love with an American girl, Lucy (played by Hannah Schöbitz). And the two see themselves on different sides of the escalating political conflict.

The fourth story, directed by Abner Benaim, is set in 1977. Silverio (played Luis Manuel Barrios), started a new job driving American high figures in the Panama Canal Zone during the pinnacle of the diplomatic negotiation between the USA and Panama.

Canal.04
Jake Wright (Carlos Eduardo Goldstein Alemán) and a Panamanian officer

The fifth and last story is directed by Pituka Ortega-Heilbron and set in 2013. Clarice Jones (played by Lakisha May), an American jazz singer, is contacted by archeologists about an artifact tying her story with the story of her ancestors.

Panama Canal Stories don’t have any weak segment, the two I enjoyed the most was the 1964 and 1977. 1977, was the funniest, while 1964 has a clear representation of the two nations fighting, Panama and the United States.

Ivan González Panama actor historias del canal stories
José (Ivan González)

The movie is better to understand if you know a little about the history of Panama, it makes the watching experience more enjoyable, but it’s still watchable if you don’t.

The acting is one of the movie’s weak spots. There are some high-level acting, like from Luis Manuel Barrios and some others, but generally, it’s where the film didn’t satisfy me.

The appearance of the movie is good, with excellent costumes from each period and equally good settings, helping a lot the historic feel of the film. The 1913 one is especially good in this aspect because of the scenes in the Canal’s excavations sites.

Silverio (Luis Manuel Barrios) historias del canal panama stories
Silverio (Luis Manuel Barrios)

The cinematography is not as good as some other movies we already reviewed here, but it’s satisfactory. The film has a consistent visual throughout, but the difference between directors is very noticeable. For example, the 1913 segment camera moves way too much, while the second, 1950, is more stable and wide.

The length of the film is ideal. With an average pace throughout, every segment has a reasonable time to develop and have a satisfactory end without dragging for too long.

Kisha May (Clarice jones) Lakisha May Clarice Jones Thompson historias del canal panama stories
Lakisha May (Clarice jones)

It’s a nice movie, the stories are good, the overall quality of each segment varies, and the acting is the weakest spot of the film. So I’ll give Panama Canal Stories 7 Moons.

That’s it for now. Don’t forget to resist against neocolonialism, especially if you’re from Latin America or Africa. Also, like the video, subscribe to the channel, leave a comment, and check our other videos.

Thanks for watching, see you in the next video.

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