Panama Canal Stories – Movie Review (2018 FIFA World Cup™ Special Series)

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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

Canal.02.jpg

World Cup Historic

The Panamanian National team started in 1937 and had their first match in early February 1938, a 3-1 win against Venezuela. Four days later, they lost 11-0 against Costa Rica, their biggest defeat to this day.

New Balance DIAZ 10 Panama Home Soccer Men’s Jersey FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 (XL)

In its almost 41 years of existence, Russia will be the World Cup debut for Los Canaleros, after a heroic classification, winning 2-1 against Costa Rica.

Panama will be the oldest squad in the World Cup, with an average age of 29.6 (Source 2), and everyone playing for teams from weak leagues, mostly in North and Central America.

Six of the players have more than a hundred caps with the National team, including Blas Pérez and Luis Tejada, each one with 43 goals scored.

Panama is the weakest team in the group and probably one of the weakest in the World Cup, but are debutants, maybe after this World Cup they can start a renewal of the national team and we can see good things in the future.

Prelude

Panama Canal Stories present five different stories, each one at a different moment of Panama’s history, from 1913 to 2013.

The Panama Canal is a fundamental for the history of Panama, also a very important geographical spot for the World, because it connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also what gives the Panama National Team its nickname, “Los Canaleros”.

Panama City Creative Commons
Panama City

Before the construction of the Canal, to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans (and vice-versa), you would have the inconvenience of sailing around South America, what could be dangerous and take a lot of time.

The idea of a Canal in Panama began in the 1530’s, while Panama was part of the Spanish Empire, but at that time, the task was impossible, but the idea remained.

In 1881, the French began their project led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the engineer responsible for the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt. At that point in time, Panama was a province of Colombia.

1886_bas_obispo
Excavator at work, in Bas Obispo, 1886

The French project 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, so the US decided to back Panama in the separation from Colombia, what eventually happened in November of the same year.

Immediately after the separation, Panama and the US signed a treaty giving rights of a zone in perpetuity to the United States, called “Panama Canal Zone”. In 1904, the construction of the Canal began in that zone.

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

From the beginning in 1904 to the finish in 1914, the Americans used the structure left by the French, plus a lot of dynamite and the oppression of the mainly Caribbean workers to build the Canal, but differently, of the previous efforts, they succeeded.

With an American Zone dividing Panama in half, the tensions began to rise, until demonstrations against the American zone began in 1962 and riots in 1964, culminating in the “Martyrs’ Day”.

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

After the Canal Zone Police murdered students taking part in a demonstration, the riots began and lasted for three days. The US Army got involved and 22 Panamanians and four US soldiers were killed.

In 1977 the United States President, Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with General Omar Torrijos, accepting to hand the Canal Zone over to Panama completely after the end of the of 1999.

From 1979 to 1999 the Canal Zone was extinct and the control was divided between Panama and the United States.

Historias del canal

Like “You Carry Me” and “Wild Tales“, Panama Canal Stories is one more with various stories little movies within itself, each story focusing on one character and how the Canal’s history affected their lives.

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 first one, set in 1913, has the direction of Carolina Borrero and Lakisha May as the star playing Clarice Thompson, a young worker in the construction of the Canal.

Clarice is engaged to Philip (Andre Morris) when Jeremiah (Henry Twohy), a severe American, arrives to be the new responsible for the explosives division and start to oppress the workers, changing Clarice’s plans.

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

The second story was directed by Pinky Mon, about Jake Wright (Carlos Eduardo Goldstein Alemán) an American boy left with his drunk mother (Kathleen Wise) after the death of his father.

Is 1950 and the only life Jake knows is in the Canal Zone, but with his father’s death, he will have to return to the United States with his mother but try to know the true Panama before he leaves.

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

The third story, directed by Luis Franco Brantley, happens shortly before the Martyr’s Day in 1964, José (Ivan González), a high school photographer fall in love with an American girl, Lucy (Hannah Schöbitz).

José and Lucy live in different sides of the escalating political conflict, and their views about it, in a way to represent the views of their nations at that time.

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

Silverio (Luis Manuel Barrios), in the fourth story, is his family provider and started a new job as a driver in the Panama Canal Zone, driving American high figures.

It’s 1977, in the heat of the diplomatic problems and negotiation between the USA and Panama and Silverio is not just working for the American, but also for his country. It was directed by Abner Benaim.

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

The last story is well before the Canal is fully Panamanian, in 2013. Directed by Pituka Ortega-Heilbron, we have Kisha May again, this time as Clarice Jones, an American jazz singer contacted by archeologists about an artifact that will tie her story with the story of her ancestors.

The movie is very nice in general and doesn’t have any weak story, but I especially enjoyed the 1964 and 1977 stories, 1977 being the funniest.

Canal.08

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

I think the worst aspect is some of the actings. The protagonists are usually good, but we cannot say the same about a lot of the others. However, considering that’s one of the only flaws, I will give it 7 Moons.

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Author: Marlon Santos

Random guy who loves movies and series, among other things.

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