Why am I at the Sun Valley Film Festival for its second annual outing? Because I ran into film blogger Michael Guillen, of The Evening Class, at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event on February 16 – a delirious day-long extravaganza of silent films with eclectic live music accompaniment, a teaser for the annual four-day festival in July – my favorite among many film festivals in San Francisco.
Michael, longtime San Francisco resident and international film festival devotee, now divides his time between SF and Boise, Idaho, and has become deeply involved in the Idaho film world. He’d been deputized by the Sun Valley Film Festival to invite a few journalists this year. And, it turns out, running into me in the aisle in the Castro just happened to remind Michael that I write about film festivals. Invitation proffered, and happily accepted. I’ve never been to Idaho, after all.
Lucky me, as I’ve just had about as diverse and exciting a film festival day as one could hope for. I’d heard little about the movies in the line-up except for the ones I'd seen already on the festival circuit: “The Sapphires” at Telluride, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” in Toronto and “Starlet” in Mill Valley.
And Day One was happily to start slowly, happily because yesterday’s travel started at 4:20 a.m.. After a change of planes in Seattle, I was met at Boise by Michael and Peg Owens of the Idaho Film Office, taken to a quick lunch along with fellow journalist Brandon Harris of Filmmaker magazine, followed by an even quicker and dirty radio interview, and piled into a van for the 2 ½ hour drive to Sun Valley. During which Brandon regaled me with tales of his feet not touching the ground as he ricocheted from the quirky Eastern Oregon Film Festival in La Grande, Oregon, to the Miami International Film Festival to a fast few days at South by Southwest.
Within, it seemed, minutes of checking in to the posh, storied Sun Valley Lodge, built in 1936 and a favorite Hollywood retreat since – a hallway off the lobby is brocaded with dozens of pictures of everybody from Mary Pickford to Clint and Arnold, with Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Lucy and Desi, Peter and Jane Fonda, and assorted Kennedys inbetween – we’re treated to a lavish, somewhat overwhelming, multicultural, multi-ingrediented dinner at Globus, hosted by Greg Randolph of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. (I had cauliflower bisque, elk loin, and coconut panna cotta, washed down with Spanish white wine. By this time I have already accepted more hospitality than at my last three festivals combined.)
I fully intend to fall asleep within minutes of returning to the Lodge, but hey! They have Turner Classic Movies on the channel lineup! So I start watching Lionel Rogosin’s “Black Roots” and fall asleep with the TV on, just like at home.
Day One looks to be a blessedly light schedule, since I’ve already seen “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” playing as a freebie at 11 a.m. It was co-written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, and McCormack is hosting the Screenwriter’s Lab, my first official Festival event, at 1 p.m., in Ketchum, the town adjacent to Sun Valley.