SVFF 2019: Showcasing the Best and Brightest (Present and Future) Filmmakers 

click to enlarge Filipe DeAndrade and Guillermo Navarro, guests at the Nat Geo Salon series of 2019 SVFF. - SVFF
  • SVFF
  • Filipe DeAndrade and Guillermo Navarro, guests at the Nat Geo Salon series of 2019 SVFF.
The Sun Valley Film Festival continues to mix an intoxicating cocktail of filmmakers—blending Oscar-caliber filmmakers with a few shots of under-the-radar storytellers.

National Geographic Wild's always-popular Salon series helped kick off SVFF 2019 Thursday with a formidable pairing: the legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan's Labyrinth) alongside Filipe DeAndrade, who just three years ago won the festival's Wild to Inspire short film competition. Most recently, the two have been working on different projects for Nat Geo Wild, non-fiction documentaries chronicling the beautiful-but-harsh realities of the planet's ecosystems.

"Animals are the worst actors," DeAndrade told the packed Salon audience. "They never show up on time; and when they do, they want to eat one another."

DeAndrade revealed that he had just wrapped a film titled The River and the Wall, turning his lens toward the flora and fauna in and around the Rio Grande Valley, where President Trump insists a border wall be built.

"Nobody was talking about the impact of a border wall on the wildlife and the culture of that area," said DeAndrade. "So, for three months we traveled the Rio Grande. We traveled every mile of the Rio Grande, by mountain bike, by horseback or by canoe."

Also on Thursday, SVFF's much-heralded 1 Potato Film Initiative, now in its fifth year, premiered the just-completed film, derived from last year's 1 Potato screenplay competition.

"As you probably all know, it's all about shooting that film in Idaho," said SVFF Executive Director Teddy Grennan. "These are films that dare to explore everything that this beautiful Gem State has to offer."

The 2018 1 Potato screenplay winner, Irish Johnston, sat nervously in the audience as the lights dimmed on a packed Argyros Performing Arts Center, and her dramedy The Hole Truth made its world premiere.

When the lights came back up, less than a half-hour later, and the audience gave its overwhelming approval, Johnston took a deep breath and said, "That very first day on the set as we began filming, I definitely felt like I was in good hands."

Indeed, the locally-grown team of filmmakers, beginning with director Russell Friedenberg and cinematographer-extraordinaire Gregory Bayne, crafted a quirky, audience-pleasing 16-minute dark comedy.

"This is great. I'm so happy to be here," said Johnston.

Moments later, Laura Mehlhaff, who is about to transition from her role as veteran SVFF programmer to the person in charge of the newly-formed Sun Valley Film Initiative, announced that the 2019 1 Potato screenplay competition winner was a script penned by Scott Burkhardt, titled, Girls Are Strong Here.

No details were shared as to what type of film it will be, but with a winners check of $5,000 as seed money, Burkhardt will soon get to work, compiling his own team of Idaho filmmakers to turn Girls Are Strong Here into celluloid reality. The film has already been slotted into the 2019 schedule of the Sun Valley Film Festival.

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