Panama Selection for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Panama International Film Festival

    Best Documentary, Audience Award for Best Picture of Central America and the Caribbean
  • Miami International Film Festival

    Best Director
  • Málaga Film Festival

    Audience Award, Biznaga de Plata
  • FICBAQ Barranquilla

    Best Caribbean Film
  • IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

  • South By Southwest

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In Spanish with English subtitles

ACADEMY AWARDS® Panama Selection for Best Foreign Language Film

The invasion of Panama by the U.S in Christmas and New Year of 1989 – when  American troops deposed dictator Manuel Noriega, killing an unknown number of civilians in the process- serves as an excuse to explore how a people remember, transform, and often forget their past in order re-define their identity and become who they are today.

Invasion documents the collective memory utilizing a combination of reenactments and interviews of the 1989 U.S. Invasion: Defense forces who fought symbolic battles, politicians who justify their actions, friends of the church, from civilians to former General Noriega.

Did the “gringos” bring democracy or destruction? Was Noriega a victim or a villain? Was he an anti-Imperialist or a CIA accomplice gone rogue? Was it about drug trafficking or arms dealing, or perhaps neither? Or does it really just boil down to the fact that the U.S. wasn’t ready to relinquish control of the Panama Canal? These questions, many of which go intentionally unanswered, constitute the first Panamanian attempt to reconcile with a national trauma that many Panamanians have been all too eager to forget.

About the Director
Abner Benaim studied International Relations and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and later film directing at Camera Obscura, Tel Aviv. In 2004, he founded Apertura Films, an independent production company, in his native Panama, where he is considered a pioneer filmmaker. His first feature, Chance (2010) was the first film to be theatrically released in Panama in 60 years, and was seen by over 500,000 spectators. Invasion (2014) was Panama’s first submission to the Academy Awards and had an audience of 50,000 people in local theaters. Ruben Blades is not my Name has also been Panama’s submission to the Academy Awards. Among other films, he directed the documentaries Empleadas y Patrones (2010), Good Vibes (2003), and Round Trip to Panama (2002).

Benaim’s films have been selected at prestigious film festivals such as SXSW, IDFA, HOTDOCS and True False, and have won multiple awards as well as critical acclaim. Benaim’s work deals with social issues and touching personal stories told in an unceremonious, sometimes humorous and irreverent tone. 

Notes on Film

I’m always surprised by the very small number of works that have sprung from the US invasion to Panama in terms of literature, film, and any other arts in over 22 years. It feels like the collective memory about the invasion has been put away in a closed drawer. This documentary, perhaps the first one to come from a Panamanian, is a great opportunity to touch an untreated collective trauma, and analyze why it is that so little has been said.

The invasion of Panama, its history, it’s impact in the shaping of the cultural identity of such a young country, is considered a nuissance to many: hurt, blood and destruction are not what people are used to here, and it has been put under the carpet; it doesn’t align with the image we want to have of Panama as a place where life is good, and where commerce develops uninterruptedly.

Panama is now called the Singapore of Latin America because of its peeking economic growth. The fact is we still have many problems, most of them socio-economical, like corruption, poor standards in education, hospitals, the judiciary system, to name a few. In my opinion most of these problems arise from a lack of reflection, a general lack of a pursuit for a dignified self-image, and a denial of our own history. Most Panamanians (at both sides of the rich and poor spectrum) have chosen not lo look back at moments that define us, and prefer to move on without digesting what has taken place.

This documentary is an exercise of memory. I want to dig for the stories as an archaelogist and assemble every piece together to make a collage of our recent history. I want the result to be both a deep and entertaining piece that can outreach the country as my previous films did to help build an arena to talk about Panama today: What are we made of, and what are we looking for in life, in society, what kind of future we want for our loved ones.