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Jul 17, 2012

Film Festival Awards marred by controversy over Best Belizean Film

The annual film festival ended today and it closed with a bang. A record number of films from throughout the region were screened. To wrap up the annual event, the winners were announced in the Best Feature Film, Short Video, Music Video, Belizean Film and Animated Film. But what’s a festival without controversy? Hollywood style, controversy erupted over the winner of the Best Belizean Film. News Five’s Delahnie Bain captured that scene.


Delahnie Bain, Reporting

A record sixty-seven films were screened in the past five days as part of the 2012 Belize International Film Festival, which culminated today with an award ceremony at the House of Culture.


Suzette Zaiden

Suzette Zaiden, Director, Belize International Film Festival

“Today, we closed the film festival with an award ceremony. We had five categories that awards were to be given out to; Best Feature Film, Best Short Video, Belize Music Video, Best Belizean Film and Best Animated Film. We were only able to give out four awards today because some of the animation films are still held up in courier so when that comes out, we’ll take a look at it and the winner of that will be announced.  Best Feature Length Film went to “Love Child” original title “La Hija Natural” by a film maker in the Dominican Republic called Leticia Tonos. The Best short film went to Shaun Escayg; he’s a Trinidadian and his film was called Fish. The Best Music Video went to Baby It’s You by Juan Reyes and that was chosen by a different judge, Haqq Islam, the music producer who is also visiting the film festival. As you know the Best Belizean Film went to Thomas Hines for Mrs. Robinson.”


But the festivities may have been somewhat overshadowed by controversy over the winner of the Best Belizean Film award. Matthew Klinck of Make-Belize Films was especially passionate about the issue.


Matthew Klinck, Make-Belize Films

“In the category of Best Belizean film, the judges awarded the trophy to a movie that was made entirely outside of Belize by a director who lives in London, didn’t show a single Belizean in the film and didn’t have any Belizean language or anything like that in the film. And I thought that was such a—sort of a hit to the local people here making movies. I’m here to try and help develop the local film industry. I’m working in Cayo, we shot the entire Ixtabi movie in Cayo with all Belizean actors, all Belizean crew, every race in Belize; like you know you got Creole people, Garifuna people, Mestizo, Maya, white; every race in Belize is in Ixtabi movie and it’s shot in Creole. And I’m not saying it should have won at all but it is a real Belizean film.”


Matthew Klinck

Klinck says that it’s discouraging for the local filmmakers to have the award go to a film that was made in England.


Matthew Klinck

“Very important to point out that what I’m saying here should not reflect at all on the Film Festival and the team running the film festival. I am upset at this decision by the international jury, but the film festival is wonderful and needs to be encouraged. Maybe next year, to judge the best Belizean film, it should be three Belizean judges.  It is depressing. It is depressing to the local artists who have been submitting films to the festival and have been completely squashed by a film that was submitted from outside. So it doesn’t give them the empowerment that they need to go that next step and make their next film and their next project. It was just saying, you know what forget what you’re doing there in Belize, well give the award to some people in Britain talking about Belize.”


The Film Festival Director, Suzette Zaiden and one of the judges Francis Ann, defended the decision, saying that while it was not filmed here, Mrs. Robinson is in fact a Belizean story by a Belizean director.


Suzette Zaiden

“Well, we expect controversy when there’s more than one person competing for an award. Everyone who loses will feel like some cheating went on. To avoid that issue, we had brought in three international jurors to be the selectors of awards in the festival including the best Belizean film. My personal knowledge of film is not as deep as I would like it to be, so we went out and we looked for three members of the jury that are film intellectuals so to speak, who have written on film theory, who understand the background, the language, the entire process.”


Francis Ann

Francis Ann, Judge, Belize International Film Festival

“The filmmaker is Belizean. His father is a black, mixed race man; his grandmother is an English woman who came here to live many, many years ago. They are—that is a Belizean story, the story of somebody who met an English person and she came back here and they lived here and raised a family here. That is a Belizean story, those are Belizean characters.”


Meanwhile, the Belizeans who had reason to celebrate were director Juan Reyes and the artists from Multi-Facetico Records, who won the Best Music Video award.


Juan Reyes, Director, Best Music Video

Juan Reyes

“We used professional equipment to produce the video, using a camera crane, boom mikes and everything with each camera too. We filmed the video in Caves Branch in Belmopan and it was a really cool experience for us.  It’s my first time that I am submitting a video in the film festival and I’m very happy, I’m very proud of these guys that we won this award.”



Chami-ka, Multi-Facetico Records

“Primarily, it’s a good opportunity to showcase our talent. We thought that we had the know how to qualify into it and we’re very happy to be a part of it and especially now to receive the award for Best Music Video, which is very much encouraging.”


All conflict aside, Zaiden says the Film Festival was a major success and will be even bigger next year. Delahnie Bain for News Five.


In addition to the five major award categories, a special jury award for best documentary was given to Director Guetty Felin for the documentary Akwantu: The Journey and to Director Roy T. Anderson for his documentary Broken Stones.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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12 Responses for “Film Festival Awards marred by controversy over Best Belizean Film”

  1. junito says:

    Only in Belize. People cant act mature enough and do some research before banging the winner. The story is of how a Belizean Family was started. Real Dodos no wonder they didnt win

  2. OH MY says:

    The category was Best Belizean Film not Best Belizean Story there is a difference. Maybe Ms. Zaiden should have made the criteria a little clearer. Best Belizean Film should be a film MADE in Belize by Belizean featuring Belizean. Maybe the Film Festival needs some real movie people involved in it not just some one tha took a course in film, there are many very experienced movie making people currently living in Belize, but of course as is the norm in Belize if they think you know more than them they don’t want you involved because you might take the glory away from them so instead let’s do it half @$$ and no one is the wiser…just saying. Belizean film makers don’t be discouraged trudge on and do your thing, I know just how you feel.

  3. BT says:

    As a naturalized Belizean I am offended by any suggestion that Mrs. Robinson was not a Belizean story, or that “no Belizeans were depicted”. The woman who the film is about IS a Belizean! The people who made the film are Belizeans.

    Being born white or speaking with a different accent does not disqualify someone from being a Belizean. A significant portion of the current population was not born in Belize. We are a country of immigrants, and a country with a long history of migration.

    Longer than Belize has existed people have come and gone from this land. The ancient Maya, the Baymen, the Garinagu, African slaves, the refugees of the caste war, Central Americans, victims of Hurricane Hattie, social and political “exiles” who left during the march to independence, students who go abroad to study and find better opportunity outside Belize, deportees who are “returned” to a country they’ve never known, etc. are all migrants and all make up the story of Belize.

    “Mrs. Robinson” is a real Belizean film, made by a real Belizean director, telling a real Belizean story. To suggest that it is not because it does not fit someone’s preconceived stereotype of what is “Belizean” is not only disrespectful, it’s racist.

  4. it is wat it is says:

    BT…. I couldn’t have said it better. Congratulations on Mrs. Robinson.

  5. Belizean says:

    The Director for the Best Music Video Awards was not Belizean either. This guy is a 100% pure guanaco (Salvadoran with a PR) and he proudly boasted his accomplishments in the papers in El Salvador, “Salvadoran wins award in Belize”. THIS FESTIVAL IS A WASTE OF TIME and discouraging to our local producers.

  6. Supporting Belizeans says:

    I’m not sure why people say this is discouraging to Belizean filmmakers… because a Belizean filmmaker won!

    Tomas (the director) lives in the UK so that he CAN GO TO FILM SCHOOL! Perhaps one day Belize will have an established film school and our youth won’t have to go elsewhere to learn how to make films – they’ll learn here. In the meantime I don’t know why we would fail to support his efforts and say they “are not Belizean” regardless of where he is.

    I don’t think anyone considers the movie Apocalypto a “Mexican film” because it was filmed in Mexico…

  7. Food for thought says:

    I don’t think anyone considers the movie Apocalypto a “Mexican film” because it was filmed in Mexico…

  8. ang says:

    Mek them Belizean movies interesting.

  9. Minty says:

    BT is spot on, get over it Klinch – – many congrats to Mrs Robinson, (if its the same one who runs a great hotel in Cayo then I defi anyone to say she’ not Belezean !)

  10. Minty says:

    OK – so its not the same Mrs Robinson who runs a great hotel in Cayo – but I am sure Jesus loves them both “more than you would know woa woa woa” – Many congrats Tom Hines – I am sure your grandmother is very proud and very well deserved – personally my vote would have gone to Dan the Man but thats because I like pottery. So great to see this Festival going from strength to strength well done to all involved.

  11. Lola says:

    I hope the guy who won the best Music Video Award, Juan Reyes, has already paid for the equipment he used to win that award, which I understand is not even in his name, but he kept agreeing to pay for it. It belongs to someone he made lose a lot of money by dishonoring contracts and disrespecting deadlines. It’s a shame this awards are not granted to people with more moral and ethics, but then again, I understand it is a Video Contest, not a Contest for people with standards. It is also a shame it was not awarded to a true Belizean. I know other producers who are real Belizeans who have the quality and trajectory.

  12. Rudy says:

    Dear all, I think that it´s an International Film Festival and everyone even though they are Belizeans or not, have the capacity to participate on it. I attended the Belize Film Festival. I saw all the movies and videos and I agree with the final results. If you don´t attend the Festival you cannot criticize because you don´t have any argument about all the movies and videos that participated on it. I am very sad that only few comments on this post are positive ones, that´s why some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean don´t progress. we have to act like brothers and not like enemies. We must build a region. Stop doing that guys !!!!!!!

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