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A focus on film
Sun Valley's debut film festival dances on to the scene.

by Matt Furber
photo by Tory Taglio

During a slushy St. Patrick's Day weekend last March, a Wood River Valley on the cusp of spring welcomed the inaugural Sun Valley Film Festival. Film-goers stomped through Ketchum's slippery streets in droves to partake of cinematic history in the cozy seats of the Magic Lantern and the historic grandeur of Sun Valley's Opera House. It was a one-of-a-kind program that included dozens of fictitional and documentary films ranging from arty shorts to Hollywood features.

The Sun Valley area shares a rich history with Hollywood, from standing in for the Alps in I Met Him in Paris with Claudette Colbert and serving as a backdrop to Marilyn Monroe's allure in Bus Stop, to providing a home for many a movie star over the years. Considering this mutually beneficial relationship and the success of the Sundance Film Festival down the road in Utah, a Sun Valley film festival was inevitable.

The way was paved for the successful debut of Sun Valley's first juried film festival through the many years of work put into curating films for a mountain town audience by local organizations such as the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Community Library, and niche groups such as Silver Creek Outfitters and the Idaho Conservation League. Smaller festivals such as Peggy Goldwyn's Family of Woman Film Festival (in its sixth year), the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival and the Magic Lantern Cinema's film festivals have long been staple events for locals, seasonal residents and visitors alike, helping to keep the connection between the valley and the magic of celluloid alive.

A film festival with the Sun Valley moniker may have been a long time in coming, but organizers were still overwhelmed by the demand. "Most of our films were sold out," festival Chair Bex Wilkinson said. "We needed to do second runs. It was amazing." After all 60 films had rolled through their reels, the awards started to flow. Created to recognize an Idaho filmmaker whose work best reflects the beauty and diversity of the state, the Gem State Award went to Buhl native Jaffe Zinn for Magic Valley starring Ketchum resident and Hollywood actor Scott Glenn. The little Idaho film also picked up the Vision and One in a Million awards, sweeping three of the festival's five accolades.

A strong Idaho showing is expected again this year. Festival Executive Director Teddy Grennan and 2012 festival favorite Heather Ray are bringing An Unkindness of Ravens, which was shot in McCall and stars Amy Smart, Joshua Leonard and Australian pop star Natalie Imbruglia. "There were a lot of films made this year tapping into what Idaho has to offer," Grennan said.

For its sophomore year, the festival will offer seven awards, the two additions being a young filmmaker award and a mixed media short film award. "It was amazing the number of kids that showed up last year," Grennan said. Already the submissions for the 2013 festival, taking place March 14-17, are flooding in from filmmakers across the country. "One of the nice things that happened last year was that we got the word out about Sun Valley," Grennan said.


Sun Valley's Film Festivals

Best of Banff Film Festival, Ketchum
February 1-2, 2013

Family of Woman Film Festival
March 1-3, 2013

Sun Valley Film Festival
March 14-17, 2013

Silver Creek Fly Fishing Film Festival
July 19, 2013

Gathering: A Film & Music Festival
September, 2013

Magic Lantern Fall Film Festival
November, 2013