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Int’l Critics Line: Panama’s Oscar-Shortlisted ‘Plaza Catedral’

Panama makes its debut on the World Characteristic Oscar shortlist with the personality-driven thriller Plaza Catedral. This contender from Abner Benaim (Ruben Blades Is Not My Name) is a taut two-hander between a grieving mother and a young street hustler, with a sobering message about corruption and violence. Samuel Goldwyn Motion photos fair not too lengthy ago got the title.

Alicia (Ilse Salas) is a successfully-heeled Mexican architect working in Panama, who moves into a swish new condo in Plaza Catedral. A young teen is called “Chief” (Fernando Xavier De Casta) offers her “VIP parking” and she haggles wearily, assuring him she’s no “gringa.” Over the approaching days, they fabricate a grudging thought. When he presentations up on the stairs of her constructing bleeding from a gunshot hurt, she has a different. Relief the boy and threat her private security, or turn a blind explore?

It’s a palpable lawful jam in a city where crime is round every corner, and trust is exhausting-earned. “The younger they’re, the extra unhealthy they’re,” warns Alicia’s doctor pal, and this thought performs on her mind as she becomes increasingly extra pleased in Chief’s firm.

Matthew Herbert’s efficient score each and each reflects Alicia’s emotions and each so usually misdirects, inviting a combination of suspicion, nerves and hope. As Alicia remembers her tragic past, the mood leans extra in direction of drama. When she sooner or later opens up about it, it’s one in every of the movie’s strongest scenes.

Plaza Catedral is an remarkable mix of distress drama and culture-conflict thriller, but there’s a veracity and thoughtfulness that elevates it above doubtlessly sensationalist field cloth. And whereas there’s an inherent hazard of the guts-class-savior trope, this touches on the complexities of the category chasm it’s depicting, and doesn’t counsel that Alicia would possibly perchance maybe also additionally be easily fastened by serving to Chief. She is usually shown observing down from the tops of structures, but there would possibly perchance be an vacancy to her loftiness.

Salas puts in a compelling performance, whereas De Casta flits between cocky threat and ambiguous attraction with a refined contact. Fancy many World Characteristic contenders, Plaza Catedral highlights problems in the country it’s depicting. However this depiction of gang violence comes with a heartbreaking actual-lifestyles postscript: Fernando Xavier De Casta used to be shot uninteresting shortly after production ended.

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