The Panama Deception (1992)

TOMATOMETER

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Movie Info

Barbra Trent's Oscar-winning documentary takes a harsh look at a black period in 20th-century democracy, the late '80s and early '90s when during "Operation Just Cause," the U.S. invaded Panama, ostensibly to oust dictator and known arms and drug kingpin General Manuel Noriega, whom the U.S. aided for over a decade. Basing her information on eyewitness accounts, Trent alleges that U.S. troops killed up to 4,000 Panamanian men between the ages of 15 and 55, buried them secretly in mass graves, and then reported back home that only 250 civilians died. She also alleges that the troops destroyed untold amounts of buildings. Shocking photographs back up her stunning allegations. Trent spares neither the U.S. government nor the media -- that blindly accepted and reported anything released by the White House -- from blame in keeping the horror a secret. The film begins with a history of the U.S. relations with Panama, beginning with Panama's fight for independence from Colombia -- something the U.S. backed so it could build the Panama Canal -- to President Carter's 1977 treaty that would give control over the vital shipping lane back to Panama in the year 2000. One of the most shocking aspects of the story is that according to Trent, "Operation Justice" was really launched so that the U.S. could renege on the treaty and retain control. She also suggests the U.S. military used the invasion to test out sophisticated new weapons in preparation for the Gulf War. The photos and violence depicted are not for the squeamish. Elizabeth Montgomery narrated the events.
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By: Barbara Trent , David Kasper
Written By: David Kasper
In Theaters: wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Channel 4

Cast

Abraham Alvarez
as Narrator [English version]
Carlos Cantu
as Narrator [English version]
Alma Martinez
as Narrator [English version]
Lou Diamond Phillips
as Narrator [English version]
Tony Plana
as Narrator [English version]
Rose Portillo
as Narrator [English version]
Lucy Rodriguez
as Narrator [English version]
Martha Velez
as Narrator [English version]
Carmen Zapata
as Narrator [English version]
Martha Velez
as Narrator [English version]
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Panama Deception

Critic Reviews for The Panama Deception

All Critics (4) | Top Critics (3)

Forceful condemnation of the Reagan-Bush policy in Panama, especially after the 1989 invasion. Relavent message--a total dismissal of the officual story--and timeley release in election year increased the visibility of docu, which won the Oscar Award.

Full Review… | October 6, 2006
Variety
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | October 17, 2007
Orlando Weekly

A sobering look at how Noriega went from the US payroll to jail.

May 28, 2003
Nitrate Online

A revelatory documentary

March 11, 2003
Uruguay Total

Audience Reviews for The Panama Deception

The most uplifting scenes in this story of mass murder are those of the loving care Panamanians gave to reburying their loved ones in proper caskets after discovering fifteen civilian mass graves created by US military bulldozers.

G Richard Barton
G Richard Barton

Marvellous documentary about the Panama invasion by the United States and the role that the U.S. had in propping up Noriega beforehand. Unfortunately, it relevant only to the historians now.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

This documentary explores the hidden agendas behind the U.S. invasion of Panama. Watching this documentary now, I couldn't help but draw one-to-one parallels between its subject and the wars in Iraq. All three wars were surrounded in lies and presented to the American public devoid of context and history. And this documentary meticulously picks apart those lies, giving us a history of a region we rarely think seriously about. The parallels I draw between then and now are probably inappropriate and simplistic, but my gut reaction can't be too far off. And when the narrator states that Panama was the training ground for the first Iraq War, I couldn't help but think, "In more ways than you could ever know." I vaguely remember the invasion of Panama; it was when I was still young, believing that we were always the good guys. And even now, in the age of Obama, who at one time convinced us to be optimistic and proud again, I watch this documentary hoping that things have changed, that the public relations branch that presents victims of our attacks as grateful has been dissolved, but then I wake up. Overall, I think this is an astounding film, one that is required watching for all people who think about voting with the seriousness that it deserves.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

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