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Sun Valley Film Festival Announces Films
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Ezra is a comedy about a New Jersey man who blows up a successful career and marriage to become a stand-up comic. COURTESY: Sun Valley Film Festival
   
Wednesday, February 7, 2024
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Ted Hope, whose films have won six Oscars, will join actor Annette Bening and filmmaker David O. Russell as one of those being honored at the 2024 Sun Valley Film Festival.

Julia Cox, who wrote the screenplay for “Nyad,” which stars Bening and Jodie Foster, will also be honored at the 13th Sun Valley Film Festival, which starts Feb. 28 and runs through March 3.

The Sun Valley Film Festival, which is three weeks away, announced its honorees on Tuesday, along with the films it will be showing.

The films kick off on Feb. 28 with “Ezra,” which follows a comic played by Bobby Cannavale and his eccentric father played by Robert DeNiro taking a road trip with the comic’s 9-year-old autistic son. The festival will conclude on March 3 with “Sugarcane,” a documentary about an investigation into the abuse and missing children at an Indian residential school.

National Geographic will present “Secrets of thee Octopus,” “Trafficked: Caught in an African Coup,” and “Photographer,” in which Sun Valley favorite Jimmy Chin and his wife E. Chai Vasarhelyl look at some of the world’s most extraordinary photographers to see what makes them click.

“Unega Tales of The Guardians,” offers a look at the nonprofit Unega Mountain Dog Rescue south of Timmerman Hill that rescues and rehabilitates dogs that guard sheep in central Idaho.

Amidst all the films the festival will host a panel discussion called “AI in Service of Storytelling,” in which panelists will demonstrate in real time how groundbreaking AI tools are streamlining the production process and enhancing the final cinematic product. The participants will include AI artist Nem Perez; Nikola Todorvic, CEO of Wonder Dynamics, and Rachel Victor, co-founder of FBRC AI.

Ted Hope will receive the Pioneer Award presented by Variety in recognition of an industry innovator whose work embodies the trailblazing spirit. Hope has produced more than 70 films and founded a post-production facility, two websites, two think tanks and an app. He launched Amazon’s foray into feature film production, leading them to 19 Oscar nominations and five wins. And, as a producer, his films have received 25 Oscar nominations and six wins.

He helped launch the film careers of people like Ang Lee, and he wrote the memoir “Hope for Film.” His most recent films include “Cassandro,” a film about a Mexican wrestler, from Oscar-winning documentary director Roger Ross Williams and a documentary on Taiwan called “Invisible Nation,” which was directed and produced by Vanessa Hope.

Hope will discuss his career in a free Coffee Talk moderated by Variety on Sunday, March, 3.

Julia Cox will receive the Festival’s High Scribe Award, given to an individual with a profound insight into the film writing process, during the Screenwriters Lab on Saturday, March 2. Cox is known for her character-driven, tense dramas and her adaptations of novels and true stories.

Named one of Variety’s “Ten Screenwriters to Watch,” her works include “In a Lonely Place,” “Unfollow” and “The Great Alone,” about the family of a Vietnam veteran and former POW who move to Alask for a new start. Recently, she wrote the original spec scripts “Do No Harm,” about a surgeon whose life takes a dangerous turn, and “The Takeaway,” about a play-it-safe art restorer whose boss turns out to be a worldclass thief.

The four-piece indie rock band Arcy Drive of New York will headline the SVFF Awards Bash with what they call “attic rock” at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at Whiskey’s on Main. The Patrons Opening Party will kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Festival Headquarters, and the Filmmakers roundup will be held at 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, at The Casino.

To learn more about the Sun Valley Film Festival’s parties, and pass options, visit https://sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.

2024 FILMS

The Sun Valley Film Festival will screen 22 narrative and documentary features, 37 shorts and three episodics.

NARRATIVES:  

Edge of Everything (dir. Sophia Sabello and Pablo Feldman) - A teenager on the cusp of turning 15, straddles the line between childhood and adulthood when she is forced to move in with her father and his younger girlfriend after her mother’s death.

Ezra (dir. Tony Goldwyn) - A New Jersey comic (Bobby Cannavale) at odds with his ex (Rose Byrne) and eccentric father (Robert De Niro) takes off on a road trip with their 9-year-old autistic son (William A. Fitzgerald) in this irresistibly charming dramedy about a father’s love taken to the extreme. Directed by Tony Goldwyn, Ezra also features Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg. 

Ghostlight (dir. Kelly O'Sullivan and Alex Thompson) - When a construction worker unexpectedly joins a local theater's production of Romeo and Juliet, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life.

Janet Planet (dir. Annie Baker) - In rural Western Massachusetts, 11-year-old Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) spends the summer of 1991 at home, enthralled by her own imagination and the attention of her mother, Janet (Julianne Nicholson). As the months pass, three visitors enter their orbit, all captivated by Janet and her spellbinding nature. In her solitary moments, Lacy inhabits an inner world so extraordinarily detailed that it begins to seep into the outside world. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and director Annie Baker captures a child's experience of time passing, and the ineffability of a daughter falling out of love with her mother, in this singularly sublime film debut. 

The Long December (dir. Thomas Torrey) - Nearing the end of another financially difficult year and feeling pressured to finally give up on his dreams, struggling musician Gabe Lovell wonders if his break is just around the corner when his rockstar cousin offers him a spot in the final show of his tour. 

Tiger Stripes (dir. Amanda Nell Eu) - An 11-year-old girl who is carefree until she starts to experience horrifying physical changes to her body.

Tokyo Cowboy (dir. Marc Marriott) - A Japanese businessman goes on an unwitting journey of self-discovery when he takes a company trip from Tokyo to a Montana cattle ranch.

Wayward (dir. Jacquelyn Frohlich)  - While moving from Idaho to Los Angeles with her mother, an 11-year-old girl, who is yearning for stability in her life, becomes smitten with a charismatic female hitchhiker they pick up along the way.

Your Monster (dir. Caroline Lindy) – After her life falls apart, soft-spoken actress Laura Franco (Melissa Barrera) finds her voice again when she meets a terrifying, yet weirdly charming Monster living in her closet. A fantastical and dark romantic comedy about falling in love with your inner rage. 

DOCUMENTARIES:  

Bastards of Soul (dir. Paul Levatino) - In the limelight of imminent global fame, a Texas band's journey is marked by the unforeseen loss of their charismatic frontman, Chadwick Murrey. This documentary captures the raw essence of their final album sessions and the electrifying stage presence that defined them, celebrating the enduring legacy of a man who achieved his dreams against all odds. 

Frida (dir. Carla Gutiérrez) An intimately raw and magical journey through the life, mind, and heart of iconic artist Frida Kahlo. Told through her own words for the very first time — drawn from her diary, revealing letters, essays, and print interviews — FRIDA reaches new visual heights with lyrical animation inspired by her life and unforgettable artwork.

Invisible Nation (dir. Vanessa Hope) – Invisible Nation is director Vanessa Hope’s intimate view of the presidency of Taiwan’s sitting head of state, Tsai Ing-wen, as she fights for the future of her nation.

Join or Die (dir. Rebecca Davis and Pete Davis) - A film about why you should join a club—and why the fate of America depends on it. Follow the story of America's civic unraveling through the journey of Robert Putnam, whose legendary "Bowling Alone" research into American community decline may hold the answers to our democracy's present crisis.

Maestra (dir. Maggie Contreras) - Five incredible women from around the world, who are boldly breaking glass ceilings in the male-dominated world of orchestral conducting, take center stage in Maestra, filmmaker Maggie Contreras’ directorial debut.

Maya and the Wave (dir. Stephanie Johnes) After a brush with death, Maya Gabeira makes history in the male - dominated world of big wave surfing.

Natalia (dir. Elizabeth Mirzaei) - 29-year-old Natalia is about to make her Life Profession in the orders of the Byzantine Catholic Church, having left behind her exciting life as a young student to devote herself to God. Natalia is a film about returning to the world or walking away from it, and just how far a person would go for who they love. 

Shari & Lamb Chop (dir. Lisa D’Apolito) - The legendary ventriloquist Shari Lewis rose to stardom with her beloved sock puppet Lamb Chop. When her popular children’s show gets canceled, Shari must find a way to make peace with her alter ego. Together they spend decades reinventing themselves until Shari’s unlikely comeback where she becomes a fierce advocate for children’s education.

Sugarcane (dir. Julian Brave NoiseCat, Emily Kassie) An investigation into abuse and missing children at an Indian residential school ignites a reckoning on the nearby Sugarcane Reserve.

Unega Tales of The Guardians (dir. Nikola Lakic) The nonprofit, Unega Mountain Dog Rescue, rescues and rehabilitates Livestock Guardian Dogs within Blaine County that have been left behind in the mountains.

Where the Rope Ends (dir. Baylee Sinner) A woman’s 60-foot fall while canyoneering leads to a profound discovery.

EPISODICS: 

Photographer (dir. E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin and Kristi Jacobson) - From Academy and Emmy Award-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Photographer flips the lens on some of the world’s most extraordinary visual storytellers to see what makes them click.

Secrets of the Octopus - The next installment of the groundbreaking, award-winning, natural history “Secrets of” franchise from National Geographic, the secret lives of octopuses are revealed in this groundbreaking series.  

Trafficked - Caught in an African Coup (dir. Rob Muraskin) - Journalist Mariana van Zeller's investigation into how gold mining is funding terrorism gets interrupted by a military coup that strands her team in Niger.

SHORTS: 

“Imagined Future” is a curated short film slate showcasing three inspirational stories of exceptional people. Each film shares a story of individuals collaborating to find cutting edge and creative solutions to unique challenges and ultimately empowering communities around the globe:

The 10,000 Mile Bridge (Jay Roach, Bill Pope, Sharon Oreck, Asako Ushio) - Working through the non-profit group Ohana One, Dr. David Kulber travels with his team to establish a support network for overwhelmed surgeons in resource-deprived areas. With the help of new technology, they hope to help cultivate a global support system for surgeons to expand access to lifesaving care to millions around the world.

Wild Hope: Coffee for Water (Jared Lipworth, Sean B. Carroll, David Shadrack Smith, Fay Yu, Elissa Johnson, Geoff Luck, Whitney Beer-Kerr, Nikki Eslami) - Decades of war and unsustainable agriculture have stripped almost half the trees from the rainforest atop Mozambique’s Mount Gorongosa. The devastation threatens the watershed that sustains life in nearby communities and in Gorongosa National Park. Now, park experts and local farmers are uniting to plant a new shade-loving cash crop—coffee—that will help restore the forest and ensure a more prosperous future for humans and wildlife alike. 

Abundance: The Farmlink Story (dir. Owen Dubeck) - During the largest food crisis in a century, a group of college students step up to help those facing hunger. Their small local effort inspires hope nationally and motivates 600+ students to drop everything to feed millions of families. 

“Made in Idaho” program:

The Balloonist (dir. Kai Barry and Heather Parkinson) - A creation story that captures the enigmatic life and death of a hot-air balloon, guided by a mathematician who revels in what he can learn on every flight.

Diary of a Brooke Trout (dir. Michelle DeLateur) - An experimental short film and audio story that dives into the interplay, overlaps, and psyche around journalism, mental health, and fly fishing.

Everything is Quiet Now (dir. Dalin Hodgkin) - Ever since she can remember, Ellie's world has been overwhelmingly loud. She experiments with herself and the world around her in an attempt to finally find the quiet she's been searching for.

Heart to Heart (dir. Loren Kreisle) - After coming out of heart surgery, Allen gets unexpected news about his operation.

Looking Out (dir. Collin Insley) - Stuck together in a dingy motel room, with not a whole lot else to do but look out the window and wait for something to happen, a pair of surveillance operatives navigate the intersection of their personal and professional lives.

The Trial (dir. Chelsea Smith) - When a budding romance falls apart, a broken-hearted woman takes her oblivious ex to trial in a fantastical "Court of Relational Justice" where even an unread text is a punishable offense. But the scorned lover’s campaign for justice will open the door to some uncomfortable truths.

Wake (dir.Benjamin James) - A teenage girl's dreams seem to predict the future. Is she having premonitions, or just losing her mind?

“Midnights” program:

Boo (dir. Genevieve Aniello) - A comedic moment of reflection on the insanity of living in fear, both real and in our heads.

Bounce House (dir. Callie Bloem & Christopher J. Ewing) - Civilization has ended. Everyone Polly loves is dead. But at least she has a bounce house.

Fishmonger (dir. Neil Ferron) - In this supernatural dark comedy, a pathetic Irish fishmonger must survive a sex pact with an ancient fish creature in order to save his mother’s soul from burning in hell. 

The Mantis (dir. Wylie Rush) - This girl’s got a kink for necks. Better pop your collar.

Nightmare (dir. Baby Sun) - In a society where the existence of detectives is forbidden, a story unfolds with a touch of dark humor, shedding light on some of China's hidden rules and ugliness.

The Sperm Bank (dir. Margaux Susi) - Newly diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer, 23-year-old Rob must now take the first big step . . . masturbate into a cup to protect the future he isn’t sure exists. 

“Shorts Program 1”:

Heritage Day (dir. Lara Everly) - Eight-year-old Evie becomes obsessed with playing Holocaust after dressing up as her estranged grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, for "Heritage Day" at school.

Lost Nation (dir. Hannah Cabell) - Winter is closing in on a woman caretaker in rural New Hampshire, with only a visiting loon for company; but when a strange man appears, is he savior or threat? And, is he even a man?

ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ (Meet Me at the Creek) (dir. Loren Waters) - In order to revitalize cultural traditions, a Cherokee elder fights to restore the “irreversibly damaged” Tar Creek.

Order for Pickup (dir. Jackie Zhou) - Trapped in a cycle of work and self-isolation, burnt out Kelsey’s reality starts to blur until an irregular order for pickup disrupts everything.

Shimmer (Inspired by Eva Young) (dir. Alice Gu) - After winning Miss International National USA, closeted drag performer and doctor, Ethan Gao/Dr. Ethan, must rush to the hospital when a close patient begins to code, threatening their secret passion of drag.

Shut Up & Fish (dir. Raul Sanchez and Pasqual Gutierrez) - Evocative and bold coming-of-age vignettes on the trending Los Angeles Latino youth culture, orbiting themes of social identity, belonging, and the emergence of authentic character.

Things I’ve Made My Roommate Do (dir. Mylissa Fitzsimmons) - Max is in love, again. His roommate Olivia, who's secretly in love with Max, convinces him he needs to get out of the friend zone and tell this girl how feels before she leaves town. What could go wrong? 

“Shorts Program 2”: 

The Day of (dir. Umar Malik) - A mother's worst nightmare comes to life when she receives a devastating call from her daughter. 

Frankie, Underwater (dir. Kevin Pohl) - A young girl battles her own identification of queerness with newly sprouting crystalline claws in this surreal summer fever dream that brings the science of her school project to life and her relationship with her best friend to new, scary places. 

Future Of . . . (dir. Scott Coello) - The animal world in revolt, Future Of . . . tells three stories of the sea, the land, the air.

Invasive Species (dir. Annie Ning) - A young sound artist confronts feelings of imposter syndrome at her first ever artist's residency.

Surprise! (dir. Caroline Falls) - A young woman unravels on her birthday when her boundaries are violated by a best friend’s good intentions.

Thirstygirl (dir. Alexandra Qin) - An intimate film about sisterhood and addiction, following two mixed-race Asian-American women traveling across the American South.

Twin Oaks (dir. Sean O'Connor) - A family's multi-generational journey through trail building and the healing power of nature.

Wailing Wall (dir. Amy French) - A dramedy following the journey of an overzealous Russian-American new-ish mom as she relocates her family to live with her traditional Soviet mother when their lives become unmanageable. 

The following shorts will also play ahead of select feature programming:

A Winding Path (dir. Alexandra Lazarowich and Ross Kauffman) - When her active, 70-year old Papa suddenly dies of a preventable health issue, Jenna grapples with her dream of a career in tribal health while facing her own mental health crisis.

Exuvia (dir. Scott Burkhardt) - A 90s teenager's growing maturity puts her at odds with her best friend the summer before high school.

The Ghost of Los Angeles (dir. Bobby Louise & Brig) - A young woman struggles to search for any type of meaningful human connection.

Sick Day (dir. Hughes Ransom) - A burnt out assistant's perfect plan to be sent home sick is derailed when a swarm of locusts invade Los Angeles.

When We Were Old (dir. Elizabeth Giamatti) - Kate and Lily, seventeen, emerge into the morning after a difficult party.

Tension (dir. Hilton Graham & Lucas Krost) - "Tension” celebrates legacy, conservation, and perseverance through the story of a young fishing guide and her relationship with her grandfather. 

“Ezra” is a comedy based on a true story about a New Jersey man who blows up a successful career and marriage to become a less successful stand-up comic. COURTESY: Sun Valley Film Festival

~  Today's Topics ~


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