Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SVFF’s going big

3rd year of Sun Valley Film Festival cements credibility

Express Staff Writer

An important part of any festival experience are the social events, and the Sun Valley Film Festival delivers top entertainment and hospitality in style. The festival’s Opening Night Party will feature Dinosaur Jr. front man J. Mascis, and the Saturday night Awards Bash will feature the hot indie alt-country rockers Those Darlins. Other events include the daily Apres Ski Bites, featuring food from a selection of Sun Valley’s best restaurants and the soon-to-be famous Sunday morning Tito’s Handmade Vodka Bloody Mary Brunch.
Photo courtesy Amy Taylor and the Sun Valley Fim Festival

    The Sun Valley Film Festival announced its full lineup of films Monday, and with the new programs, special events, parties, concerts and some special guests, this year’s festival is looking like a full-fledged stop on filmmakers’ journeys to fame.
    The third annual Sun Valley Film Festival will offer up a slate of more than 50 features and shorts. The festival will open on Thursday, March 13, with Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and First Lady Lori Otter introducing the opening night film, Arie Posin’s “The Face of Love,” starring Ed Harris, Annette Bening, Amy Brennerman, Robin Williams and Jess Weixler.
    “The state of Idaho has a proud filmmaking heritage and we’re all hoping that SVFF and the Gem State have a long and fruitful relationship and can work together to bring more filmmakers to shoot in Idaho,” Otter said in a news release.
    The rest of the curated slate of films includes 11 narrative and 15 documentary feature-length works from 11 countries, as well as more than 40 short films. Festival partner National Geographic Channels will present the highly anticipated winner of the “WILD to INSPIRE” short film competition, sponsored by National Geographic WILD, the African Wildlife Foundation and the SVFF. The winner will get to study filmmaking and wildlife in Africa with Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Bob Poole. Local film students have submitted entries.
    There will also be a special 20th anniversary screening of actor-director Kevin Smith’s landmark indie hit “Clerks.” Smith and frequent co-star Jason Mewes will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Smith will also be on hand later in the weekend to do a Q&A following a free screening of his most recent film, “Red State.”
    In addition to films, the festival will feature unique special programs, events and panels, including its signature Coffee Talks with top industry insiders, including Academy Award-nominated producers Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) and Jim Burke (“The Descendants,” “Election”), Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), and actor Mariel Hemingway.
    The Screenwriters Lab will be hosted by two 2014 Academy Award nominees, screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (“Dallas Buyers Club”), and will feature actors Will McCormack, Alison Pill and Joshua Leonard, along with Jim Burke and Academy Award-winning screenwriter David Seidler (“The King’s Speech”).
    Additional special guests attending this year’s festival include Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu (documentary “The Guide,” “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien”), director Fredrik Bond (“Charlie Countryman”), actor Peter Cambor (“NCIS Los Angeles”), actor Pell James Burns (“The Lincoln Lawyer”, “Zodiac”), director William Olsson (“An American Affair”), and Kurt Sutter (creator of “Sons of Anarchy”).
    Listed below is a sampling and synopsis of films provided by the festival. The  full list can be found at

Cast: Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Amy Brennerman, Jess Weixler
   Five years after the death of her beloved husband Garrett (Harris), Nikki (Bening) meets a man who seems his exact duplicate and yet he is a stranger. Romance blossoms between Nikki and this alluring doppelgänger, but she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth about what drew her to him, hiding photos and preventing him from meeting friends and family. Still, she can’t resist taking him to all the old haunts. It isn’t a question of if the truth will come out, but when.

Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack
    Dwight Evans is a mysterious outsider whose quiet life on the margins is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. “Blue Ruin” is a classic American revenge story that won the FIPRESCI Prize in the Directors’ Fortnight program at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Cast: Nicholas Brendon, Hugo Armstrong, Elizabeth Gracen, Emily Baldoni
    A mind-bending puzzle that twists logical thought to the breaking point. A group of friends gather on the night a strange celestial object passes overhead, causing reality and relationships to fracture.

Cast: Ryan Jones, Nathan Varnson, Colm O’Leary
    After a neighborhood tragedy, two young brothers – 9-year-old Tommy (Jones) and 14-year-old Eric (Varnson) – confront changing relationships, the mystery of nature, and their own mortality. A dreamlike portrait of adolescence unfolding over one hot, hazy summer, Hide Your Smiling Faces is a startling debut, exploring rural American life through the distorted lens of youth.

Cast: Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Amy Seimetz
    Davina is an imaginative and strong-willed teenage girl who escapes often into a beautifully twisted fantasy life. Having grown up quickly as the sole caretaker of her disabled mother, she looks for salvation in a new relationship with an older boy. She is swept into a whirlwind of romance and adventure, until the volatile side of his personality begins to emerge. I Believe in Unicorns takes us on a road trip through the stunning and complex landscape of troubled young love.

Cast: Kelly Thornton, Fionnula Flanagan, Pat Shortt, Eva Birthistle
    Thirteen year-old (Thornton), is asked by her uncle Colm (Shortt), to take her Nan (Flanagan) for a day out, so that the family can surprise her with a home makeover. The pair return to find the house transformed, refurnished and redecorated, a great success until Nan announces that her massive life savings were hidden in her mattress which has been dumped during the clean up and nobody has any idea where it is.

Cast: Jordan Kenneth Kamp, Malcolm Barrett, Larisa Oleynik, Owiso Odera, Mimi Michaels, Paul Scheer, Eddie Steeples, Sarah Hagan
    Eugene Olivier is an eccentric theater artist living in NYC, where he has spent the last ten years of his life putting on various musicals to rave reviews. After years of creative triumphs, he decides to move to Los Angeles where he will surprise his two best friends from childhood, Lawrence and Regina, and help them rediscover their now forgotten love for the theater. After pitching them on his brand new OJ Simpson musical, which is loosely based on Othello, Eugene comes to realize that it may not be as easy as he thought to stage the next great American musical.

Cast: Liam Torres, Jonathan Randell Silver, Steve Siddell, Natalie Thomas, Reggie Gowland, Jade Fusco
    In their dilapidated church headquarters, a greatly diminished and dispirited cult awaits the sign to off themselves. Their hapless leader Dave concocts a plan: to quell infighting and give them purpose in life before their deaths, he fakes a prophecy instructing them to make a movie and share their story with the world. There’s just one problem: they don’t know the first thing about film production.

Cast: Aurelio Cohen, Jules Sagot, Eleonore Pourriat, Grégoire Monsaingeon
    Leo is 10 and wise beyond his years; a solitary dreamer who seeks refuge in books. When the carefree 20-year-old Theo steps into his life, it forces Leo out of his shell. Despite their age difference, the two becomes best friends, helping each other face up to their responsibilities. But are they ready to face what it means to grow up?

Cast: Catherine Keener, Hafsia Herzi, Ben Kingsley
    Lee (Keener), a war photographer who has spent her adult life in the world’s most treacherous conflict zones, documenting the catastrophes of others, has recently experienced her own horror when she was taken hostage and brutalized in Libya. Instead of returning home where her concerned colleagues and loved ones anxiously await her, she instead detours to Sicily, and holes up in a small hotel to weather her PTSD on her own terms, not far from the home of her former lover and mentor Albert (Kingsley). As Lee struggles to recover from her psychic and physical wounds, she meets Hafsia (Herzi), a young Tunisian migrant in need of an abortion and safe passage to France, who bears a striking resemblance to a Libyan girl Lee photographed just before her capture. Desperate to connect, Lee tries to help Hafsia, and conquer her own formidable demons in the process.

Cast: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Amy Brennerman, Druce Davison
    Owen stars in this playful comic drama as an English teacher who challenges the school’s art teacher (Binoche) to a “war” between words and pictures — and, in the process, sparks an unlikely romance.

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