Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2022. 11:13 am CST.
By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: Special Envoy for the development of families and children, Rossana Briceno features outstanding Belizean women making a difference in Belize every week.
This week’s spotlight is on Suzette Zayden, a Belizean Film and TV producer recognized internationally as one of the most passionate advocates for the promotion of Belizean, Caribbean, and Central American Cinema, particularly through her work with the Belize International Film Festival (BelizeIFF).
Zayden’s formal education includes a MPhil in Screenwriting from the University of Bergen in Norway, a Diploma in Film Production from the world-famous Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television (EICTV) in San Antonio de Los Banos, Cuba, and a BA in Communications specializing in Broadcast Production from Loyola University in New Orleans in the USA which she attended as a Campus/Fulbright scholar.
Zayden was the producer of Belize’s first and highly successful morning show in 1993 for Channel 5 called Lauren Da Mawnin with Comedienne Lauren Burgess as host.
As a producer at Channel 5, she also wrote and directed several iconic ads including one for Gallo Cheese with Lauren and one for Benny’s with another Belizean funny lady, Beverly Smith Lopez.
In August 1994, Zayden left Channel 5 and headed to Cuba to study film even as images of makeshift rafts with Cubans fleeing to the US filled TV screens worldwide. It was the height of the worst economic crisis in Cuba called the special period brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The school, itself was a fully immersive film experience that more than made up for any hardships. As a production major, she was expected to attend the Havana Int’l Film Festival each year as well as travel to France for the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 where European professors helped them to navigate this very large and important event.
Then in 2000, Zayden began work with Andy Palacio on a documentary called THE GARIFUNA HERITAGE that would form part of the candidature file being sent to UNESCO in a successful bid for the Garifuna Culture to be declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
Over the past 20 years, she has also held various positions within the Government of Belize including being the Coordinator of the Film and Media Arts Unit at the National Institute of Culture and History, and Facilitator of the Belize Film Commission.
Since founding BelizeIFF in 2002 she has been its Director, Creative Director, and Chief Programmer for all 15 editions thus far of this prestigious film event which is considered by many to be one of the more important festivals of its kind in the Caribbean and a crucial vehicle for the growth of Belize’s Film Industry.
In addition to her ongoing work with BelizeIFF, Suzette works as a media consultant, teaches scriptwriting, and offers production support services to non-Belizean production companies looking to film on location in Belize.
Suzette is a single mother with a teenage son who has autism. Even with her experience of being bullied, she became a strong woman in her field.
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