Oscars: Panama Selects 'Ruben Blades Is Not My Name' for Foreign-Language Category

Ruben Blades Is Not My Name Still 1 - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Apertura Films

The documentary on Panama's most popular actor, musician and presidential candidate won the Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW festival.

The Panamanian Academy of Film Arts and Sciences has chosen Abner Benaim's documentary Ruben Blades Is Not My Name as the country's bid for the Oscars in the foreign-language category.

The film follows actor and multiple Grammy award winner Ruben Blades (Fear the Walking Dead) through several of his concerts around the world, as well as in Panama City and Manhattan, N.Y., delivering an intimate portrait of Panama's most popular star, who also sat as a minister of tourism, and ran for president in 1994. Earlier this year, Blades, a longtime political activist who holds a master's degree in international law from Harvard, hinted at possibly running again in 2019.

Winner of the audience award in the 24 Beats per Second category at the SXSW Film Festival, Ruben Blades Is Not My Name is a co-production between Benaim’s Apertura Films and Argentina’s Gema Films, together with Colombia's Ciudad Lunar (Embrace of the Serpent). The film opened the New York Latino film festival, and was recently HBO picked it up for the U.S. 

"I'm honored and thrilled by representing Panama with this film since Ruben Blades has represented Latin America for so song with his music. And I hope this portrait of him and his work will bring audiences closer to Latino pride, to the right and obligation we have to tell our own stories, and our responsibility in making our countries to be as dignified as their people are," said Benaim to The Hollywood Reporter in an email.

Benaim's first feature film Chance (2009) was the first Panamanian production in more than 60 years, and managed to beat James Cameron’s hit Avatar at the box office at the time of its local premiere. His documentary Invasion, about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, was the country's first-ever Oscar bid, in 2014.