Plaza Catedral (2021): Abner Benaim’s Dramatic Film of Loss, Panama’s Entry for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar


Plaza Catedral is the second fiction feature by Panama’s best-known international helmer, Abner Benaim (“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”).

It has been selected as Panama’s submission for the Oscars for best international feature film.

It’s the third time that Benaim is representing Panama in the Oscars, but the first time for a fiction film.

Starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (The Good Girls) and Manolo Cardona (Narcos), the film turns on Alicia (played by Ilse Salas) who while mourning the loss of her 13-year-old son in accident, has her life turned upside down when teenager Chief asks her help after being shot in street conflict.

“Chief,” is played by the late first-time actor, Fernando Xavier de Casta, who was tragically killed in Panama earlier this year, in an act of gang violence.

Plaza Catedral had its world premiere in Guadalajara in October, where it had a strong audience response.

Salas and Xavier de Casta also took best actress and best actor awards.

“Because Fernando, our 15-year-old actor was killed before the premiere of the film, we are dedicating the film to his memory and his broken dreams,” says Benaim. “We aim to use the Oscars campaign to create awareness about juvenile violence and send out a loud and clear message that we are all responsible for what happens in our society and cannot leave behind the children from neighborhoods with socio-economic hardships.”

The film is a produced by Benaim’s Apertura Films, Mexico’s Barracuda Films, headed by industry vet Matthias Ehrenberg, and Colombia’s Blond Indian, run by Carlos García and Maria Alejandra Mosquera. Exec producer is Ruben Sierra Salles. Worldwide rights are being handled by Daniel Diamond at Luminosity and Mike Karz at Gulfstream.

Plaza Catedral had its Panamanian premiere as the opening film at this year’s Panama Film Festival, which runs from December 3-5.