Thursday, June 24, 2021
Sun Valley Film Festival Announces Winners as Fest Wraps Up
Valerie Taylor was a champion shark hunter with ruthless aim in the 1950s before a personal epiphany transformed her into a marine conservationist.
Saturday, April 24, 2021


“We Are as Gods” introduced us to Stewart Brand, creator of “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which Steve Jobs called “Google in paperback form 35 years before Google existed.”

A free-range kid, he had the uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, founding the modern environmental movement. And, by the time everyone else caught up he was off to something new.

Now he’s working with George Church and Russian scientists in Siberia to recreate extinct animals like wooly mammoths from DNA, in part to help tamp down climate change resulting from the melting of the permafrost.

“We can. But should we?” asks environmentalist Hunter Lovins in the film. “Is this a good idea?”

“We Are as Gods,” taken from one of Brand’s statements, was among those that entertained and educated audiences tuning into a virtual livestreaming of the Sun Valley Film Festival April 14-18.

Others included “Playing for Keeps: The Upside of Downtime,” which spotlighted the Institute of Play as it took viewers back to a 1967 study at Huntsville Prison that determined play history was starkly different between the homicidal prisoners and a control group.

“Are we having enough fun?” it asked, adding that the opposite of play is not work but depression.

You’ll reap the consequences of aggressiveness, substance abuse, depression and less ability to handle conflict if someone is deprived of play, the film purported as it showed how one doctor found she could express more joy and empathy with her patients when she made hula hooping a priority.

The Audience favorite this year resulted in a tie. And the High Scribe award went to a screenwriter whose script should make for fascinating viewing should it reach the big screen.

Here are this year’s awards:

  • The Ford Producers Grant, which awards $25,000 to enable an emerging behind-the-camera talent take their project one step closer to reality, went to “Tiger Girl” and its Executive Producer Andrew Thomas Huang.

    Set in 1967 Los Angeles, the film is a coming-of-age fantasy about a repressed Chinese-American teenage girl haunted by a tiger lurking in her attic.

    Finalists included Thomas Torrey’s “All the Names We Buried” and Samantha Soule and Daniel Talbott’s “Midday Black Midnight Blue.”

  • Best Narrative Feature Film went to Mari Walker’s “See You Then,” about two women’s vulnerable conversation leading to a shocking revelation.
  • Best Documentary Feature Film was awarded Pacho Velez’s “Searchers,” which followed the encounters between New Yorkers as they navigated their dating apps searching for that special someone.
  • The One in a Million Awards, which honor stories made for one million dollars, went to Kate Tsang’s “Marvelous & The Black Hole” in the narrative category. The coming-of-age comedy follows a teenage delinquent who befriends a surly magician played by Rhea Perlman who helps her navigate her inner demons with sleight of hand magic.

    It went to Jasmine Stodel’s “Kid Candidate” in the documentary category. The doc is a funny, irreverent look at Hayden Pedigo, a 24-year-old experimental musician whose viral videos for fake City Council campaigns in Amarillo inspired him to take action and run for City Council in 2019.

  • The SVShorty Award went to Miles Warrens’ “Bruiser,” about a young man who investigates the limitations of his manhood after his father gets in a fight at a bowling alley. Also, Lindsay Calleran’s “What I See When I Look,” about a filmmaker recreating memories from childhood to present the complicated dynamics of one family as seen through the eyes of a child.
  • The Audience Awards—films receiving the most votes from attendees—resulted in a tie.

    The Feature Winner was Mylissa Fitzsimmons’ “Everything in the End,” which followed a young man’s encounters with Icelandic people set against the backdrop of that windswept land as he awaited Earth’s final days.

    The other was Sally Aitken’s “Playing with Sharks,” a National Geographic documentary that tells the story of Australian scuba diver and conservationist Valerie Taylor who has dedicated her life to exposing the myth surrounding our fear of the ocean creature immortalized in “Jaws.”

  • The High Scribe Award, which honors an emerging voice in screenwriting went to Julia Campanelli, who authored “The Paisley Witch Trial about a white midwife with an illicit past and a formerly enslaved Black emancipator who form an uneasy bond when both are arrested for witchcraft in a true, untold story of the last witch hunt in Scotland.
  • The National Geographic Further Award, which recognizes a leader whose work is innovative and timely, went to Brian Skerry, whose work is featured in the Disney+ original series “Secrets of the Whales.”
  • The Future Filmmakers Forum Hot Shot Winner was “Sprout” directed by 18-year-old Luca Csathy from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

The dates for the 2022 Sun Valley Film Festival have yet to be announced.


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