Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sun Valley Film Festival debuts

Offers a bit of animation, ‘ski porn,’ war documentaries and some world premieres

Express Staff Writer

“Brad and Gary” revolves around the big idea that joining forces to overcome one’s short-comings really is the only way out. Or in. Or maybe out again? This short about friendship is brought to life by the same team behind the hit “Despicable Me.” It will be shown at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, March 17, before “Friends with Kids,” starring Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig and Jennifer Westfeldt. Courtesy photo

They built it and they came. The Sun Valley Film Festival may have started as a field of dreams but it's shaped up to be more like a territory of aspirations.

When the Sun Valley Film Festival opens with a kickoff party at Whiskey Jacques' on Thursday, March 15, it will be the realization of a handful of locals, famous and not yet so, who decided that Sun Valley was missing a golden opportunity to serve as Idaho's version of a neighboring state's Sundance Film Festival.

"Once we showed that this wasn't just a bunch of renegade film buffs trying to watch movies, the support just poured in." said festival Chair Bex Wilkinson. "We have really been overwhelmed by the amount of support and the quality of people we were able to attract."

The festival starts Thursday and goes until Sunday, March 18. Events are all around town, though films will be shown at Rick Kessler's Magic Lantern Cinemas and the Sun Valley Opera House. Tickets and information can be found online at or at the festival office across from the cinemas in Ketchum at 171 Second St.

In recognition of the ski junkies, the festival will open with what Wilkinson called "ski porn." The film "Winter's Wind," a full-length theatrical feature and ski action epic shot on 16 mm film and HD video.

"We wanted to do something in line with where we live," Wilkinson said. "We want to get the ski freaks into the audience and keep them for the rest of the weekend."

There are more than 60 entries, including world premiere dramatic films, documentaries, children's programs and web and television series. Festival Director Sabina Dana Plasse said they are excited to highlight these special films.

"Magic Valley," starring Sun Valley resident and Hollywood actor Scott Glenn, directed by Buhl resident Jaffe Zinn and produced by award-winning regional filmmaker Heather Rae, will be seen first here. Rae also will participate in a morning coffee klatch, one of several spin-off events surrounding the festival.

< The screening of "Preservation Hall: A Louisiana Fairytale" will include performances by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and My Morning Jacket.

Sun Valley resident and philanthropist Greg Carr will present "War Elephants," which looks at the effects that a 16-year-long civil war has had on the elephants of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park. Directed, produced and written by David Hamlin and starring Bob Poole and Dr. Joyce Poole, viewers will never again question if an elephant ever forgets. Poole will also be on hand at the screening of two shows, the "Great Migrations: Behind the Scenes" and "The Mono Lake Story." These films are sponsored by Ketchum's Wild Gift's "Celebrating Wild Nature and the Power of Film," with proceeds going to the group, which fosters young social entrepreneurs.

Sisters Sascha Rice and Hilary Armstrong are bringing back "California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown," a valentine to their grandfather that debuted in Sun Valley last summer to sold-out audiences.

Wilkinson said her personal must-see is "Jerusalem: Living in the Shadow of God" by director/producer Stephen "Zemo" Crisman. This is an in-depth look into the discord and

jingoistic attitudes that have led to more than a millennium of conflict between the three widespread monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Crisman will speak after.

In addition to the parties and coffee chats, screenings and after speeches, there will be awards. The festival will deliver the "Gem State Award," presented by Zions Bank, as well as two awards found at no other film festival: the "One in a Million," which honors filmmakers who have made a standout film for under $1 million, and the "Vision Award," which recognizes producers and their filmmaking journeys. Festival sponsor Indieflix has offered free online distribution to the winner of this year's "One in a Million" award.

Wilkinson sees a future for the festival just based on what has already occurred in so little time.

"Why not here?" she said. "We have it all happening here—ski on the hill all day, watch movies all night. It's a perfect fit for Sun Valley."

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