While in Panama for the film festival, one of the notable people I met was Jorge Ameer
Jorge left his home in Panama at age 16 in the late 1980s due to political unrest and civil instability. The country’s dictator and drug king Noriega was recruiting young men to fight in his military army as the looming confrontation with the United States approached. In 1989, the United States invaded Panama under the name of “Just Cause
” ousted the Panamanian dictator.
Living in Los Angeles, at the age of 18, he was selected to participate in the Walt Disney College Program. He worked in the marketing departments of New Line Cinema
, Paramount and Columbia Pictures
. In motion picture development, Jorge worked as a story analyst for Richard Gere
's production company and Wendy Finerman
's productions at Tri Star Pictures in the early nineties and the now defunct Fries Entertainment.
He also tried his hand at acting and was in Gramercy's "Panther" and "Tales from the Hood
", HBO's "Social Friction Fables" New Line's "Friday" along with other cameos and supporting roles. He co-starred opposite award winning actor Matthew Leitch
(Star of “Aka
”) in the carnival romp "Sabor Tropical
Ameer served as the coordinator for the 1988 Latino Entertainment Industry Conference and as a member of the advisory board of the Methodfest Film Festival. He was also the U.S. representative for the Barcelona G & L Film Festival and a film programmer for the Palm Springs G & L Film Festival.
In October 1997, he founded and executive directed The Continental Film Festival, better known as the first American Independent film festival held overseas on the island of Contadora, off the Gulf of Panama. There is where his film career actually began. He served as a festival coordinator during the very beginnings of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival founded by Edward James Olmos
and Marlene Dehmer.
At these festivals, Ameer helped in the selection of many foreign features. After noticing a lack of recognition of foreign and independent gay themed films released theatrically, he founded the International Gay Film Awards, the Glitter Awards (2001-2008), at that time the only award show of its kind.
In 1997, Ameer also started Hollywood Independents
, a distribution company which launched with the theatrical release of "California Myth" starring Tyron Powers Jr.
Thereafter, the company has released such titles as the Jamaican/American co-production "Klash" starring Jazmine Guy, "Eastside" starring Mario Lopez, "Tequila Body Shots
" starring Joey Lawrence
, "Poor White Trash
" starring Jamie Pressley, Jason London
, William Devane
and Sean Young
, Spain's Academy Awards Winning film (Goya Winner) "I will Survive
" (Sobrevivire), and "Hotel Room
" from the director of "Nico & Dani". Other releases include his film "The Singing Forest
", and "Junked
" starring Thomas Jane
(star of "The Mist
", "Punisher" and the popular HBO series "Hung
") and Jordan Ladd
(star of "Cabin Fever
", "Hostel 2").Jorge Ameer
's theatrical distribution company Hollywood Independents
International opened its theatrical distribution operations in Central and South America in 2006 with the theatrical release of "Grande Ecole" a film by Robert Salis
. The French film was censored and banned in Panama due to its explicit sexual content
Ameer took a trip to Panama to denounce the banning of this film. After outrage was expressed by the Panamanian press, the film opened successfully in Panama. It opened number one at the Alhambra-Plus Transistmica beating studio films "Night at the Museum
" and "Deja Vu". It broke box office records locally, playing in theaters for eight weeks.
On January 26, 2009 the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture study invited Mr. Ameer's to have his screenplays be a permanent part of "The Core Collection
". The screenplays in this collection are made accessible for research purposes; students, filmmakers, writers and actors are among the patrons.
In April 2011, Mr. Ameer started his own film series in Panama called Jorge Ameer
presents Cine Serie Independiente, a showcase to promote and exhibit high profile award winning independent and foreign films in Panama.
He brought in Aluzio Abranche's controversial incestuous drama of brotherly love "From Beginning to End" (“Do Comeco ao Fim”), Andre Shortell's "Psych 9" starring Sara Foster
& Cary Elwes
and Karee Andrew's "Altitude".
During the film presentations, directors presented their work to Panamanian audiences in person and live via skype. This is the first time in Panama's cinema history technology has allowed local cinephiles the opportunity to interact with award winning filmmakers virally before and after their film presentations.
Unfortunately, the presenting cinema and only theatre exhibitor to support independent films - the Alhambra Theatres- closed the following year, 2012, due to financial troubles. It was the last of a series of vintage stand-alone cinemas constructed during the boom of single screen theatres and drive-ins in Panama.
There are currently only two theatre chain exhibitors (Cinepolis & Cinemark) operating in Panama. Both chains have their multiplex cinemas located throughout today's popular mega malls.
Several months after his film series, Mr. Ameer produced the opening night after-party to the October 2011 edition of Screamfest, the world's premiere horror film festival based in Hollywood, California. The event was held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. The event brought luminaries of the genre such as Paranormal Activity
's Oren Peli
" and "Insidious
" director James Wan
, as well as "Grease
", "Summer Lovers
", "Blue Lagoon
" director Randal Kleiser
and "Firestarters", "Class of 1984
" director Mark Lester to name a few celebrity attendees. With a seance theme, over 400 votive candles were used to create the atmosphere. In addition over one hundred skulls, the Screamfest symbol, were featured as centerpieces and part of the morbid "look" throughout the event. A well-lit coffin surrounded by neon lights was featured in the gift room where guests retrieved their gift bags from the open casket.
Mr. Ameer has authored, produced, and directed the theatrical features "The Truth Within
","The Singing Forest
", "Contadora is for lovers", "The House of Adam", "The Dark Side of Love","Sabor Tropical
". All projects released theatrically through Hollywood Independents
Ameer has produced, written and directed countless 35mm comedic shorts films to name a few "My Straight Boyfriend
", "Popcorn & Coke", "Uninhibited", "Midnight Snack
", "Tease" now available on DVD as a compilation of shorts called “Straight Men
& the Men
Who Love Them”.
This collection has been so successful that he has executive produced, programmed and curated two more such programs “Straight Men
& the Men
Who Love Them 2” and the upcoming “Straight Men
& the Men
Who Love Them 3”. The latest compilation of shorts is a collection of international shorts curated from the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.
Ameer made a documentary "Classic Hollywood Cinemas
" an in depth look at the old Hollywood movie palaces, their historic and preservation value and impact.
He's also produced and arranged the publishing of the historical and award winning first ever "Guide to Gay & Lesbian Film which has won many book awards for its detail, educational and historical contribution to independent gay and lesbian films released in theaters.
In addition to filmmaking, within the exhibition industry, Jorge Ameer
was the last person to re-open the historic Vogue theatre in Hollywood as a movie theatre to showcase independent films. Films such as "Nico and Dani
" (Tla Releasing
) and "Just one time
" from the now defunct Cowboy Releasing played at this theatre. The resurgence of film exhibition at the Vogue was short lived due to alleged hauntings at the venue where a paranormal research group leased the theatre from Mann theaters to set up shop as headquarters for their research group.Jorge Ameer
's "The Dark Side of Love " was the last film to shoot at the Regent Showcase Theatre in Hollywood prior to its closing. "The Regent Showcase Theatre, originally the Gordon Theatre (1938), is one of the older art houses in Los Angeles until its closing in May 2009.
A human rights activist, Ameer has spent most of his career creating controversial, cutting edge trivial stories with thought provoking subject matters to challenge audiences from the stereotypical social conventions and outdated traditional values which detract from enhancing the global human experience.
He is currently working on his latest film project “Oasis” to be shot in Panama during the month of August. Oasis” is a twisted thriller set in the backdrop of Panama's paradise its about a newlywed American who decides to visit a friend while in Panama on business, to rekindle their friendship to prove his love to his wife by killing him.
Also, on the current issue of Scream Magazine issue # 35, the worlds largest horror film magazine, his “Medusa
” has received with extensive coverage. The film is currently playing in theaters in the U.S. through Regal Cinemas after having its world premiere at the Cannes Film Market.
” had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival Marche along with a horror short he starred in called "Find Pauletta
" in the Short Film Corner. This was the first time a Panamanian has had two films in two different programs of the Cannes Film Festival.
VFX for “Medusa
” was by Jeremy Vanneman
who has worked on many studio films including the upcoming “Ghostbusters
”, “Guardians of the Galaxy
”, “San Andreas
”, etc. “Medusa
” also has a celebrity cameo by 80's hearthrob William McNamara
Jorge is the only Panamanian filmmaker who writes, direct, produces and own his own production and distribution company in Hollywood.Jorge Ameer
has also pioneered and procured the opening of the first high school film program at one of the oldest (110 years) and most prestigious private high schools in Panama, the Pan American Institute (Instituto Panamericano) in Panama City.
The film program curriculum was designed by Ameer and approved by the Ministry of Education.
It launched in 2015 with the first class schedule to graduate in 2017.
In his own words:
The high school film program was an idea that started because of the lack of opportunity and education in film that I myself had when growing up. I loved film so much; film was my babysitter during my childhood years. Whenever I wasn't in school I was at the movie theatre watching several films a day until my mom picked me up from the theatre. I attended the Pan American Institute (Instituto Panamericano) from kindergarten through graduation 1989.
Decades later as a filmmaker, distributor and film buyer, I approached the principal of the high school with the high risk idea of starting a film school program for an industry that even though in its infancy I knew it would grow leaps and bounds if those who pushed hard enough would stick with it to create some semblance of film opportunities and production here in Panama. Ten years later
after designing a very thorough program that includes script writing, production, distribution, film marketing, campaign strategy, film fund and grant writing as well as crowdfunding to use donors as ambassadors to promote the film, the Ministry of Education approved the program.
Last year, the first students, approximately 27 brave souls, risking the uncertainty the entertainment field has to offer, weathered the scrutiny of their parents to become the pioneering and prototype Class of 2017. This Class, now in the 11th grade, is gearing up to produce its first set of shorts for the Ipa Student Film Festival. The first film festival of its kind, it showcases the works of these film students with the goal of creating filmmakers from an early stage who will graduate with films reels in their areas of interest which will show their talents to prospective universities, scholarship programs and other international student competitions.
I got the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Film Department called Di Cine in conjunction with the Panama Film Commission to fund the projections of these works which will take place as an outdoor cinema event on the school grounds. on Friday, August 5 at 7pm. Provided the students meet the minimum Gpa, they will be required to do internships placed and provided through the Film Commission in conjunction with other private film entities such as the Tvn Channel 2, one of Panama's major television networks as well as The Panama Canal Chanel among other companies offering opportunities for these students to practice their craft prior to graduating.
Currently, under construction, is an upcoming state of the art film lab studio facility providing students with the opportunity to develop their talents. Also a new auditorium will host film events and eventually the high school graduation ceremony.