The seventh annual Family of Woman Film Festival returned to Sun Valley this week, bringing both rising and established documentary filmmakers to town to screen movies guaranteed to provoke thought, spur conversation and encourage action. This year, the weeklong event, running through March 10, focuses on the subject of education for women throughout the world.
This year’s theme “advocates for the empowerment of women and girls,” according to festival organizers. Events include not only the screening of powerful films at the Sun Valley Opera House, but intimate discussions with the filmmakers, the first Bonni Curran Memorial Lecture for the Health and Dignity of Women, receptions, events at Ketchum’s Community Library and much more.
On Friday, five filmmakers gathered in the Sun Room at the Sun Valley Lodge to take part in a media roundtable discussion. Filmmakers Allison Shigo, “A Walk to Beautiful,” Academy and Emmy-Award winner Freida Lee Mock, “Anita,” Jeremy Teicher and Alexi Pappas, “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” and Annie Eastman, “Bay of All Saints,” spoke about their projects in a casual, intimate atmosphere.
In addition to discussing their work, the artists all said how much they enjoyed participating at this festival in Sun Valley. Allison Shigo, who first brought her Emmy Award-winning documentary to the 2009 Family of Woman Film Festival and returned for a Filmmaker Update said, “I really enjoy this festival. There are so many fascinating filmmakers and the global perspective is inspiring and thought provoking.”
This trip marked Eastman’s first time to Idaho and she said she was “just thrilled to have been picked.” She called Family of Woman “such a different festival experience.”
All the filmmakers acknowledged that part of what makes this festival unique is the opportunity to spend time with the other exhibitors, as well as members of the community. “We really get the opportunity to get to know each other,” Eastman said.
Freida Lee Mock, who may be best known for the Oscar-award winning film, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” said how happy she is to be back in Sun Valley. The film she brought this week, “Anita,” about the life of Anita Hill, will be released nationally in two weeks, so this experience was akin to the calm before the storm. Mock also glanced out the plate glass windows over Dollar Mountain and the iconic outdoor skating rink and smiled, “where else can you go skating, enjoy that amazing hot pool and still draw a fantastic, engaged audience to your film?”
Teicher agreed, “we really wanted to come because of the intimacy of this film festival. It’s a great way to connect with the a passionate audience and the other filmmakers.”
Also in attendance was Festival founder Peggy Elliott Goldwyn whose commitment to human rights and the health and dignity of every woman compelled her to create this forum.
The Family of Woman Film Festival is closely aligned with the United Nations Population Fund. Goldwyn joined the board of this organization in 2003 and according to a statement, “one of my main duties was to make the American public aware that the UN had a women’s agency and of the remarkable work it did. My first thought was to use film – but how?” This longtime part-time resident decided Sun Valley was the perfect place to find the support she needed to make this dream a reality.
Three years ago, photographer and philanthropist Stephanie Perenchio joined Goldwyn as co-chair of the festival. The commitment and capability of these two women and the organization’s many volunteers and supporters saw the festival grow. Screenings moved to the Sun Valley Opera House and the festival partnered with the Sun Valley Company to continue to bring the filmmaker’s messages to bigger audiences.
Perenchio said in a statement, “It’s one thing to read about intolerance or gender persecution in the newspapers; it’s a significantly different thing to see the stories unfold on the big screen. To have a chance to talk with filmmakers or people featured in these films adds a layer of understanding.”
The passion for the projects this year’s featured filmmakers brought to Sun Valley was readily evident in their careful, thoughtful responses at Friday’s roundtable. While we in Sun Valley may not think every day about issues such as early marriage for Senegalese girls, obstetric fistula in Ethiopia, or the plight of single mothers in Brazil fighting for their homes, audiences here embrace opportunities to learn about issues challenging women throughout the world and look forward to the eighth installment of the Family of Woman Film Festival next spring.
For the festival’s schedule, please click HERE.