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Carnivals of Film

Movie festivals provide education and entertainment

Matthew Hayes, courtesy Silver Creek Outfitters

(page 1 of 3)

Mary Gervase’s camper becomes a rolling movie theater each spring and summer.

That’s when she hangs a towel on the window to block out the light and watches movies on her laptop, while her husband Matt keeps his eyes on the road.

Gervase has to take every chance she gets to watch films. She will see some 350 films every summer, picking the best to show at the three-day Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival.

The event is one of several local festivals designed to shine light on an array of topics through film. They range from ways man is short-circuiting the environment to horrific issues of women around the world.

Here’s a look at the film festivals that have become part of Sun Valley’s calendar year. We start with Gervase’s.

Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival

“My favorite package was this one from India,” she says, holding up a film that came wrapped in a burlap package with wax seals.

Formerly Blaine County’s assistant school superintendent, Gervase held the first festival in conjunction with the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Wood River Valley in 2005.

The first year featured films exclusively on Buddhism, to educate Valley residents about the religion. Subsequent festivals have focused on a wide array of spiritual traditions from Christianity in the Inuit culture to Mongolian shamanism.

The films have explored everything from dance and trance in spiritual tradition to individual acts of empowerment celebrating the human spirit. One viewer has described the festival as a “spirituality university;” another called it “a lazy man’s guide to enlightenment.”

One children’s film, Peace Tree, told the story of a Christian girl and Muslim girl who wanted to celebrate each other’s religious holidays despite their parents’ reluctance. Another, Blindsight, followed six blind Tibetan teenagers who climbed a 23,000-foot peak on the north side of Mount Everest with the help of a blind mountain climber.

Speakers have included Steve Crisman, a documentary Emmy nominee, and Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of the best sellers, Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessing.

One of the most moving presentations came from Azim Khalsa, who told how he had forgiven the 14-year-old who murdered his son. The story was depicted in the film, The Power of Forgiveness.

“Our goal is not to just have people come and sit alone and isolated in a theater. Whenever we can, we want to give our audience an opportunity to enter into a discussion about the messages behind the films and with our guest filmmakers and speakers,” says Gervase.

The festival, held each year in mid-September at the Sun Valley Opera House and The Liberty Theatre in Hailey, has attracted worldwide attention as one of the few festivals of its kind in the world. This past year the festival engaged local school children—The Community School sponsored Wardance, a movie about Ugandan refugees competing in a national dance competition, and Wood River High School’s Amnesty International conducted a question-and-answer session about the movie, Divided We Fall.

In addition, a 14-year-old filmmaker, Angad Singh, spoke to more than 400 Wood River High School students.

The festival is a gift to the community, Gervase says. “This is an opportunity to contemplate what is spiritual around us and within us. It’s a chance to enhance our appreciation of and for each other and to celebrate our humanness.” >>>


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