Variety’s Sun Valley Film Festival Screenings Attract More Than 200 Oscar Voters

Sun Valley, Idaho has been a holiday haven for members of the entertainment industry since the golden era of Hollywood, when the likes of Gary Cooper and Clark Gable flocked to the affluent ski resort. Today, the area remains a favored vacation getaway for such actors and filmmakers as Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Chelsea Handler.

With a bounty of fir trees bedecked with twinkling lights and a blanket of pristine powdery snow, Sun Valley also marked the perfect spot for Variety and Sun Valley Film Festival’s Screening Series on Dec. 27 and 29, where more than 200 voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gathered at the Argyros Performing Arts Center for each of the two screenings—Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” and “The Cave,” the latest documentary from Oscar-nominated Syriran filmmaker Feras Fayyad.

Teddy Grennan, founder of the Sun Valley Film Festival, and Candice Pate, the fest’s director, were both on hand for the screenings, citing the fest’s mission to “continue to nurture and develop up and coming filmmaking talent.”

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Fayyad whose 2017 documentary “Last Men in Aleppo” was nominated for an Oscar was unable to attend the Sun Valley screening of “The Cave” due to not being able to obtain a Visa. Danish-born producer, Kirstine Barfod, who is promoting the documentary in cities and fests throughout the United States in the coming months, was in attendance while the film’s protagonist, Amani Ballour, a Syrian pediatrician who saved thousands of lives while heading up an underground hospital in the besieged city of Al-Ghouta as it was pummeled under attack by Bashar al-Assad’s barbaric regime, appeared in conversation via Skype from her current home in Turkey, where she is awaiting an entry visa into Canada.

Both Barfod and Ballour cited the film’s importance in exposing the brutal, harrowing war crimes committed against Syrian civilians and the crucial need to call upon world leaders to step up and stop said atrocities, which have been raging since 2011.

They also announced the launch of the Al Amal “Hope” Fund, created in October to help Ballour with the support and tools required to aid women’s empowerment, female leadership in conflict zones, improved and safer access to medication, as well as educator and mentor young children in Syria.

“The fund was created to help women and support women in conflict zones,” said Ballour. “They are very powerful, they are very strong and they need help. They need someone to support them and to tell them about their rights. We will work with women in the medical field and  give them a chance to get a good education and find a job because we believe that they can change their life. We worked in the most difficult circumstances and we make change and we will change the situation of women and the image of women not only in Syria but around the world.”

National Geographic, who is distributing the “The Cave,” which will be out wide in theaters in 2020, also sponsored the event. Sun Valley Film Festival returns in 2020 from March 18-22.

(Pictured: Featured image: Kirstine Barfod; Insert: Malina Saval, Candice Pate, Kirstine Bardfod, Teddy Grennan)

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