Cultural promotion in Panama has counted on Pituka Ortega-Heilbron for many years, having in 1989 founded as a young editor the magazine “Década”, devoted to fomenting the arts in Panama. Afterwards, her career veered towards the film industry. She produced, wrote and directed short films such as “India Dormida”, “El Mandado”, “Isabel de Obaldía” and “Sacrifictum”, which took part in several international film festivals and obtained wide critical accolades.
Her feature film “Los puños de una nación” (The Fists of a Nation) obtained the support prize from Cinergia 2005 (Fund for Promoting Audiovisuals in Central America and the Caribbean) also receiving the award for Best Documentary at the Cinesul Festival in Rio de Janeiro in 2006 and the award for Best Production at the Central America Ícaro Festival. This film was also recognized with honorable mentions at the International Festival of Documentary Films in the City of Mexico, DOCS D.F., the San Antonio International Film Festival, the International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias and the Latin American Film Festival in Holland, as well as other recognitions in Europe and Asia. The documentary was chosen to be part of the official selection of several festivals around the world.
One of the five short films comprising the feature “Historias del Canal” which represented Panama at the 2014 Goya Awards bears the directorial stamp of Pituka Ortega-Heilbron.
Ortega-Heilbron has served as a jury in international video and film festivals in Cuba, Costa Rica and Guadalajara, and has also participated as a jury in the literary competition Ricardo Miró, in the novel category.
Her far-reaching work in the field of culture has been recently acknowledged in the book “Mujeres panameñas en las artes en el siglo XX” (Panamanian Women in the Arts of the XX Century).
IFF Panama’s artistic director, Diana Sánchez has also been since the year 2002, the well-known Ibero-American film curator at the Toronto International Film Festival.
With a Masters’ Degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, Sánchez has also been responsible for co-programming the show “City-to-City Buenos Aires” and programming “Vida de Novo”: the new Brazilian cinema, National Spotlight of the TIFF 2003.
For the film library of Ontario, Canada, Diana Sanchez programmed two series in 2004 and 2006, in which she concentrated on the new Argentinian cinema. She also presented a series of Cuban cinema at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2006.
Sánchez is also programming advisor at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and main programmer of the gathering section of films in progress at the Miami International Film Festival. Diana Sánchez is also in charge of the Latin Wave shows, a series of Latin American feature films that travel around sixteen cities with the support of the PROA Foundation of Argentina.
Through her important position at the Toronto International Film Festival, Diana has promoted Ibero-American cinema in many latitudes, and has established it even at the Academy awards.