Heading into its sixth year, the Sun Valley Film Festival is a perfect confluence of everything one could possibly want in a celebration of cinema: compelling, thought-provoking movies, a snowy resort town filled with pristine ski runs, and whiskey-soaked saloons redolent of the Wild West. Add to that a relaxed crowd of Hollywood players, Idaho locals, and an eclectic batch of writers, directors, and cineastes.
The five-day fest will screen more than 30 films, including 14 narrative features and 16 documentaries, Rory Kennedy’s “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” among them. Also unspooling are several films that bowed at this year’s Sundance fest, including Michelle Morgan’s comedy “L.A. Times” starring Dree Hemingway.
The world premiere of “Blood Road,” a documentary starring Sun Valley-based endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, will open the fest. Charles Randolph (“The Big Short”) will host this year’s Screenwriters Lab. The winner of the High Scribe screenwriting contest, selected by “Manchester by the Sea” producer Chris Moore, will participate in the lab.
“It’s become a real family, a real community project, which is the most fun,” says lab organizer Emily Granville.
Other highlights of this year’s gathering, expected to draw more than 5,000 attendees, includes the annual SVFF Film Lab, hosted by Sundance Film Festival programming director Trevor Groth. “It’s a chance to have a soft launch and get finishing funds, so it’s a pretty unique opportunity for filmmakers,” says SVFF programming director Laura Mehlhaff. On the kudos front, Geena Davis is being honored with the Vision Award; Brett Ratner will receive the Pioneer Award; and Allison Williams will receive SVFF’s inaugural Rising Star award.
“From ‘Girls’ to ‘Get Out,’ she’s just so smart and cool,” says SVFF executive director Teddy Grennan.
The fest will also shine a spotlight on the indigenous communities of Idaho and the Standing Rock movement with its Conversation With the Originals panel discussion moderated by Idaho-raised American Indian filmmaker Heather Rae (“Frozen River,” “Tallulah”).
Panelists are activists and educators LaNada War Jack and Sarah Sunshine Manning, plus filmmaker Cody Lucich, from the Maidu tribe. Clips from Lucich’s documentary “Akicita” about the Standing Rock movement, will be screened during the panel.
“The panel discussion is looking specifically at the issues of water, land, and sovereignty,” says Rae, who is also a founding board member of the Sun Valley fest. “So much has happened in Indian country in the last six months and so much is going on in the current administration that’s so essential to all of us. It’s so important for people to understand that the fight for clean water is for everyone.”