It’s the budding of spring and you can feel Sun Valley kickstarting back to life, switching gears, and you can almost hear the creative juices flowing. It’s not just the longer days and warmer temps, though. Within the heart of the valley a new bud is sprouting–the Sun Valley Film Festival: an extra long weekend of film, live music, seminars, and workshops which welcomes attendees in our customary fashion.
Since its earliest days, Sun Valley has always attracted the Hollywood elite–from directors to movie stars, the giants of film industry have found in Idaho a place where they can relax and blend in with the majestic scenery. Following this tradition, for the past two years the Sun Valley Film Festival has given us an opportunity to celebrate the craft of film in its various forms. Screenwriters, directors, producers, and several of the actors themselves joined in this year, giving festival goers a unique look at the film industry (whether Hollywood or independent).
The weekend began with the first annual Sun Valley Screenwriter’s Lab featuring Will McCormack, co-writer of Celeste & Jesse Forever. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend, but want to mention the workshop in hopes that they will bring it back next year (please!).
I began my festival weekend with The Sapphires—a dramatic feature about a group of singing Australian aborigine girls who enlist to tour Vietnam and entertain American troops. It was hilarious and heartbreaking, and wonderfully co-written by the son of one of the true-life Sapphires. On Friday morning I attended a “Coffee Talk” with Academy-Award winning writer Stephen Gaghan. He spoke about his lucky breaks, the condescension suffered in Hollywood, and the dangerous research he’s undertaken for films such as Traffic. His advice to writers and those who want to create: go engage with the world, and then figure out how to dramatize it.
Throughout the rest of the day I watched films about the deadly risks of K2 adventurers (The Summit), local stream restoration projects (Heart Rock Ranch), and strange couples who lose their way on backcountry Idaho roads and surrender their lives to the wolves (Craters of the Moon).
Themes found in films and talks throughout the weekend ranged from conservation to survival and legacy, and seemingly there were a lot of films with connections to Idaho and Sun Valley. Among them were Running From Crazy, a documentary about Mariel Hemingway and the legacy of her famously troubled family; Starring Adam West, about another Hollywood survivor and Sun Valley local; An Unkindness of Ravens, a sneak peek work-in-progress filmed in McCall, Idaho; and Starlet, starring Sun Valley native Dree Hemingway. But perhaps one of my favorite features was the short documentary film Exit Wound, which follows an injured war veteran through his time returning home and taking part in Higher Ground—a Sun Valley nonprofit that offers therapeutic recreation to wounded veterans and persons with disabilities. Jumping back to the rich and famous, though, Sunday morning’s Coffee Talk featured Sun Valley favorite Jodie Foster, who spoke about her acting career and visionary passion for directing.
Not that we are biased, but this is a pretty interesting place. The stars never stopped coming to Sun Valley, and their legacies have lived on to inspire a festival that promises to grow into one of the country’s greatest young weekends dedicated to film. ~Martha *To send you off, here are a few of Mark’s party pics from the week:
Photos: Mark Oliver & Ben Figueiredo