Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Movies and the mountains

Sun Valley Film Festival combines the best assets of the valley

Express Staff Writer

Express illustration by Erik Elison

    Future filmmakers are pushing their way to the front of the pack thanks to a unique program being offered for the first time this year as part of the growing Sun Valley Film Festival, entering its third year Thursday, March 13.
    The first-ever Future Filmmakers Forum offered middle and high school students a shot at prizes and a fan base by inviting their films to be submitted for review and giving them a chance to screen the best short films at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Community School Theatre in Sun Valley. Films are up for the Gem State Jr. and Hot Shot awards. Tickets are $10.
    Peter Burke, who heads up the multimedia lab and video production class at the Community School, said his students worked for many months to hone their film, “Adapt To Ascend,” with Higher Ground Sun Valley. He also helped establish the new category for the festival.
    “I’m so proud of these kiddos and so inspired by the work they’re doing and the work the festival is trying to inspire,” Burke said of the film, which was conceived by the students in grades 9-12 and directed by Burke.
    The film is a collaboration between Community School’s Media Lab students and Higher Ground. “Adapt to Ascend” follows disabled athletes from Higher Ground’s varying recreational programs (rock climbing, hand cycling, skiing) as they discover that a disabled body can achieve anything an able body can with certain adaptions.
    “It’s heartwarming, surprisingly well made and shines incredible light on the generosity surrounding our community,” Burke said. “Some of the major challenges have been time, it was  very fly by night as it was a first time experience for every student and participant. Weather has been a factor. All are steps of the learning process and I think the kids and the film are better for it.”
    “Adapt to Ascend,” will open the forum.
    Alongside films from around the nation will be “World of My Mind,” submitted by Sage School students; Wood River High School ninth grade’s “Long Distance Runner”; and the 11th grade’s “Edge of the Wood.”
    The new forum is just one of many additions to the festival, interwoven with a curated slate of films that includes 11 narrative and 15 documentary feature-length works from 11 countries, as well as more than 40 short films.
    The Sun Valley Film Festival has become a popular and fruitful venture in a few short years, with attendance exceeding 2,500 visitors, and its economic impact was estimated at $3 million in 2013, according to the economic development organization Sustain Blaine.
    Festival partner National Geographic Channels will present three highly anticipated world premieres and will announce the winner of the “Wild To Inspire” short film competition, who will get to study filmmaking and wildlife in Africa with Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Bob Poole. The competition is sponsored by Nat Geo WILD, the African Wildlife Foundation and the film festival.    
    There will also be a special 20th-anniversary screening of Kevin Smith’s landmark indie hit, “Clerks” (with Smith and co-star Jason Mewes on hand for a post-screening Q&A) followed by the raucous opening night party with Dinosaur Jr.’s, J Mascis. 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 Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) and Jim Burke (“The Descendants,” “Election”), and actor Mariel Hemingway.
    The Screenwriters Lab, will be hosted by 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”).
    Talented filmmakers with Idaho ties created more than a dozen films to be screened this year.
    A slate of works—from Idaho native and Academy Award nominee Heather Rae’s “I Believe in Unicorns” to the documentary “Finding Hillywood” by Sun Valley filmmakers Leah Warshawski and Chris Towey—were either made by Idahoans or filmed in the state.
    The short film “Capturing Wild Horses” investigates the wild horses living near Challis and the management program that determines their fate. It was filmed and edited by DeSiree’ Fawn, a fifth-generation Sun Valley native, who recently debuted with her award-winning documentary, “The Phantom Wolves of Sun Valley.”
    Other films made in Idaho include the shorts “Fertile Crescent” and “Lucy,” both shot in Boise, and “Run,” filmed at a variety of locations including Fairfield, Craters of the Moon and Bruneau Dunes.
    “As we build an enduring platform for economic success in our communities, we need to look both at business and at the arts,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, a major sponsor and creator of the Gem State Award, which includes a $1,000 jury prize for the filmmaker whose work best reflects the beauty and diversity of Idaho.
    “Both make our communities stronger, more vibrant and more enjoyable,” he said. “Our goal is to do our part to keep both our economy moving forward, and for our arts to inspire and enlighten our thoughts and lives.”


Too big to contain in print
For all the ticket information, films, parties and celebrity hobnobbing, visit
On Thursday, March 13, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and First Lady Lori Otter will open the festival and introduce the opening night film, Arie Posin’s “The Face of Love,”starring Ed Harris, Annette Bening, Amy Brennerman, Robin Williams, and Jess Weixler.


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