Zoom Salon - Panama Canal Stories (2014) – 107 minutes | Mechanics' Institute

You are here

Zoom Salon - Panama Canal Stories (2014) – 107 minutes
September 2021 CinemaLit: Cinema from the Americas

September 2021 – Cinema from the Americas

Latin American lives are explored in three intimate films from Cuba, Panama, and Argentina. Yuli (2018) is a biopic of a famed performing artist born in Cuba. Panama Canal Stories (2014) offers a century of history through the lives impacted by the creation of the Panama Canal. And The Official Story (1985) is a devastating family drama set against the Argentine military dictatorship.

September 17 – Panama Canal Stories (2014) – 107 minutes

Panama Canal Stories (Historias del Canal) is quite unlike most any film out there. It's an anthology composed of five short films by five directors. Each is centered on some moment in the history of the Panama Canal, with episodes set in 1913, 1950, 1964, 1977, and 2013. The first and last segments reference each other, but the stories are otherwise standalone. They touch on politics, romance, family, colonialism, racism, and socio-economic disparities.

Though the directors Abner Benaim, Carolina Borrero, Luis Franco Brantley, Pinky Mon, and Pituka Ortega-Heilbron bring individual styles to their films-within-a-film, Panama Canal Stories hangs together remarkably well. Cinematographer Marcelo Camorino unites the film visually, while actress Lakisha May appears in the first and last chapters to strong effect. The film reminds us that the canal has always been a staggering feat of engineering, labor, and international cooperation. Even so, the film also calculates the human cost, as the canal divides rich and poor just as it divides the Americas.



Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 


I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”



First watch the selected film on Kanopy. All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation for our CinemaLit Salon as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom one day in advance, and then an additional reminder roughly two hours in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by 4:00 PM on the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.


Register with Eventbrite below.

If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears.


CinemaLit Films

Members Free
Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
Register now ›
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

Future CinemaLit Films

Sep 24 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - The Official Story (1985) – 112 minutes
September 2021 CinemaLit: Cinema from the Americas

Oct 1 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit - Dinner at Eight (1933) – 113 minutes
October 2021 CinemaLit: Classics With Wit

Oct 8 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit - It Happened One Night (1934) – 105 minutes
October 2021 CinemaLit: Classics With Wit

Oct 15 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit - The Thin Man (1934) – 93 minutes
October 2021 CinemaLit: Classics With Wit

Oct 22 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit - Theodora Goes Wild (1936) – 94 minutes
October 2021 CinemaLit: Classics With Wit

Oct 29 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit - Design for Living (1933) – 91 minutes
October 2021 CinemaLit: Classics With Wit