When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed their list of 819 people in the industry they had invited this year to be a part of their membership, one of the names belonged to our Ebert Fellow Lydia "Sue-Ellen" Chitunya. She is a multilingual filmmaker hailing from Zimbabwe who became the recipient of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship in 2016, the same year she was awarded the 2016 ZIWA (Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards) Media Professional of the year. If you stuck around during the credits of such record-breaking Marvel blockbusters as 2018's "Black Panther" and 2019's "Avengers: Endgame," you may have spotted her name listed as a post-production coordinator. I am so pleased to congratulate Sue-Ellen on her achievements as well as her tireless quest to hone her skills and enhance her knowledge about the filmmaking industry.
A graduate of the UCLA professional producing certification program, Sue-Ellen has participated in such programs as Industry Academy, Rotterdam Lab, Durban FilmMart, Berlinale Talents, Film Independent Project Involve, Women In Film Mentoring Circle, Durban Talents, Kyoto Filmmakers Lab and CaribbeanTales Incubator. She has a passion for filmmaking and takes advantage of every opportunity to learn as much as she can.
She is currently a fellow of Women Excel Project and Women in Film INSIGHT and Production programs, and has produced several award-winning shorts that have screened at over 50 festivals around the world including BFI London Film Festival, Iris Prize and Outfest. Her varied work experience includes producing the Big PictureCon, consulting for Los Angeles Film Festival and Zimbabwe International Film Festival, marketing for Disney College Program and programming for Atlanta and Slamdance Film Festivals.
One of the most satisfying parts of administering the Ebert Fellowship programs is watching them pay it forward as they come into their own. In addition to working on films, Sue-Ellen contributes philanthropically in many ways. When she travels back home to Zimbabwe, she packs toys, books and clothes donated by friends and from her own closet. She gives them to an organization that houses AIDS orphans and patients, along with a start-up school for autistic children. She says that when she sees the smiles on their faces, she is reminded of how far a small act of kindness can go. She believes in the importance of giving back, though is quick to qualify that "there is a huge misconception about what that means." As she beautifully states, "One doesn't need to have a big bank account. Once can give back through compassion, empathy, forgiveness, kindness and love."
Sue-Ellen's membership in the Academy is another step in the path to healing the world through inclusion and diversity, and we congratulate her on her membership and the Academy on taking this step.
At the 10:57 mark of the video embedded below, you can watch my interview with Sue-Ellen at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where we discuss how she was preparing to produce her first feature film...