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Sun Valley Film Festival

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On this weirded out, sometimes joyous, sometimes hard to understand planet we all cling to, I wonder if storytelling was embraced somewhere along our evolutionary path as some sort of necessary coping mechanism.

If a complete stranger approached you with, “I have a story to tell you!” wouldn’t you stop in your tracks and listen? Why are we so drawn to characters and the arc of their story? Is it because it’s a way to see ourselves reflected back to us? Is that something we just can’t figure out without stories? Whatever the case – if you love stories ala pictures and sounds, and importantly if you’d dig that sort of thing set in an interesting place, then The Sun Valley Film Festival is not to be missed.

This weekend I made my first trek to the festival put on by the ambitious and wonderful duo of Teddy Grennan and Candice Pate. Besides being cool people you’d love to hang out with over a nice glass of something, these two portray the best of where the film industry is going. They love their project and it’s connection to Idaho. I’ve spoken with both of them on several occasions and am struck by the passion they bring to the festival and the many opportunities they explore to enhance Sun Valley as a destination for the event.

The festival is now in full bloom in it’s fourth year and besides being everything you would want from a film festival in the Idaho mountains, it brings home a few things to me personally. First, what an amazing place Sun Valley is, from the skiing I’ve been lucky enough to partake in for the last twenty years, to the vibrant town of Ketchum itself, to the inventive and overly healthy people living this idyllic mountain lifestyle. The festival is tight and well run but still has just that right laid back Idaho balance of – “the projector may break and if it does, Teddy is buying beers for the whole house”. I’ve been told this happened once, and yes Teddy did buy the beer. The word to describe all this? Intimate.

Programming for the fourth year of the festival was thoughtful and positively received by the crowds that seemed plentiful in every venue. A few Idaho entries, including Zero Point staring the amazing and multi-talented Drake Cooper Producer Lisa Hawkes, were shown to enthusiastic audiences who seemed in awe of the work going on right here under our noses. The events were lively and fun and the town was celebrating it’s own artistic, if early, coming of spring. To top it off, this year saw appearances from Clint Eastwood, Bill Paxton and Bruce Dern. Saturday night’s award ceremony at a packed Whiskey Jacque’s was quick to dissolve into a full-on raging party with the Mississippi band The Weeks, themselves the subject of a documentary featured this year. As evidence of how this festival rolls, The Weeks were on hand for the screening of their documentary Thick as Thieves, but were also easy to spot hanging around town, part of the scene themselves.

All this said, it was the SPIRIT of The Sun Valley Film Festival itself that knocked me out. The heart and soul of it was clearly all about celebrating films and filmmaking. It was enjoyable to share that love with others in the bar, in line to get in to the next thing or in the seat next to you. That intimate spirit moved us all and festival goers all seemed equally eager to share their experiences.

Maybe that’s what film does for us? It gives us a way to dialogue with each other about human emotion and the human spirit – and it becomes a conduit to feel and share those experiences. Film unites us in some way, as we see and experience stories that help us understand something about ourselves. Not only is that spirit alive and well in Sun Valley thanks to Teddy and Candice, it’s accessible.

I’m not sure where I heard this quote, but “I’ll be back.”

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(Zero Point filmmakers Gregory Bayne and Christian Lybrook accept the Gem State Award from Zions Bank.)