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Sun Valley Film Festival, Presented by Ford, Announces 2020 Honorees and Film Slate

March 2, 2020


Sun Valley Film Festival, Presented by Ford, Announces 2020 Honorees and Film Slate

Amy Poehler to Receive Vision Award;Winston Duke and Eliza Hittman to Receive Honors;

Docs “RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in her own Words” and “ The Last Shift” to Bookend Fest


Sun Valley, ID…. The 2020 Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF), presented by Ford Motor Company, announced its honorees and film line-up for its ninth annual event, taking place March 18-22, 2020. A rising star on the boutique film festival scene, the  SVFF celebrates the art of storytelling with five days of films, panels, parties and more, including two World Premieres.


Amy Poehler will receive a Vision Award, which is presented to an industry icon whose contributions to the art of entertainment have changed the industry for the better. The award will be presented at a private Patron’s Vision Dinner at the historic Roundhouse Lodge, on Saturday, March 21.  

Poehler is one of Hollywood’s most versatile and sought-after talents with credits including that of actress, writer, executive producer, and bestselling author. She is best known for her starring role on the Emmy-nominated NBC comedy series ​Parks and Recreation​. Her portrayal of Leslie Knope earned her a 2014 Golden Globe award for “Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical, or Comedy,” the award for “Best Actress in a TV Comedy” at the 2014 American Comedy Awards, and a 2013 Gracie Award. For her work on the show, Poehler also received six consecutive Emmy nominations, two additional Golden Globe nominations, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations.

She currently serves as co-creator, executive producer, and the lead voice of FOX’s animated series ​Duncanville​, co-hosts (alongside Nick Offerman) and serves as executive producer of ​Making It and serves as executive producer of the Netflix series ​Russian Doll . Her additional credits include Saturday Night Live, ​The House, Sisters, Wet Hot American Summer​, ​They Came Together, A.C.O.D., Free Birds, Are You Here, Baby Mama​, ​Blades of Glory​, Mean Girls and Wine Country, which marked her directorial debut and she also produced. She has lent her voice to the animated films Inside Out, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,​ ​Monsters vs. Aliens​, ​Horton Hears a Who!​, and ​Shrek the Third.​ She recently wrapped on directing her newest feature film called ​Moxie​, which is based on Jennifer Mathieu’s feminist young adult novel and has multiple projects in the works as part of her successful production company Paper Kite Productions.

Actor Winston Duke will receive the SVFF Rising Star Award on Thursday, March 19, in recognition of his breakthrough talent in the film industry. His recent film Nine Days premiered at Sundance and will be a special screening at SVFF.  Duke made his feature film debut as M’Baku in Black Panther, reprised that role in Avengers: Infinity War, and most recently starred in Jordan Peele’s, Us.  He was also recently highlighted as one of the top ten actors in Hollywood Reporter’s Next Generation issue.

Award-winning filmmaker Eliza Hittman will receive the Pioneer Award, presented by Variety on Friday, March 20, in recognition of her work as an industry innovator that embodies the trailblazing spirit. Her latest film Never Rarely Sometimes Always, starring Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, premiered in the US Dramatic Competition section at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it received a special jury prize and will screen at the festival. Focus Features will release the film this spring. Her other film credits include It Felt Like Love which premiered at Sundance in 2013 in NEXT and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Her second film Beach Rats premiered in the US Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where she won the Directing Award. It received multiple Independent Spirit award nominations and was the winner of the Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting as well as Outstanding Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature at Outfest and the London Critics’ Circle Film Award for Young British/Irish Performer of the Year.

Ann Druyan, creator of COSMOS, will receive the National Geographic Further Award on Saturday March 21, which recognizes a leader whose work is uniquely innovative, timely, and impactful—someone who has boldly pushed the boundaries of his or her field, and who serves as an outstanding ambassador for that breakthrough work.


The festival will open on March 18 with a special presentation of the documentary RUTH – Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words with Oscar®-winning director and Sun Valley part-time resident, Freida Lee Mock attending, and close on March 22 with The Last Shift, director Andrew Cohn attending for Q&A following the screening.

Select films will screen at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum and the Sun Valley Opera House in Sun Valley. Additional films, including the slate of selected short films, will be announced on the festival website at a later date.


SVFF is well-known for its innovative programming which provides opportunities for support and mentorship of the emerging voices of up and coming filmmakers.

And exciting new addition for 2020 is the Ford Pitch Fest. Three finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their film to a panel of award-winning producers, and one will walk away with a $25,000 Ford Producers Grant to take their project one big step closer to reality.  The event will be hosted by actor/producer Will McCormick and the panelists include Jim Burke (Academy Award® winning producer of Best Picture winner Green Book, The Descendents), Michael Burns (Vice Chairman, Lionsgate), Heather Rae (Trudell, Frozen River, Tallulah) and Effie T. Brown (Dear White People, Real Women Have Curves, Everyday People). Attendees will get the chance to participate in this typically behind-the-scenes process, including a Q&A with both panelists and finalists. The winner will be announced live at the end of the event.

Variety will once again present the popular Sun Valley Screenwriters Lab with SVSLab host, Academy Award® winning writer Stephen Gaghan, (Traffic, Syriana, Dolittle), one of the most acclaimed and accomplished filmmakers of his generation. Submittable has teamed up with SVFF to present the High Scribe Award during the SVSLab event, which honors an emerging voice in screenwriting, and now includes a residency and mentorship program.


The Sun Valley Film Festival will feature three nights of parties with live music, including Sorry I Like to Party Party on Thursday with local rockers El Stash, the Main Street Salutes a Legend street party to celebrate the return of the legendary Ford Bronco and Pioneer Party on Friday night featuring ‘soul clappin’ counterculture sounds of the Kris Lager Band and a high energy finale with American indie rock band The Unlikely Candidates headlining the Saturday Night Awards Bash, one of the Festival’s most anticipated events.


The Sun Valley Film Festival, presented by Ford Motor Company, has a long history of supporting and creating career-changing opportunities for filmmakers and independent artists the world over. With over 4,500 yearly attendees, SVFF is quickly becoming known as the Festival for Filmmakers: a boutique event beloved by film fans and auteurs alike. Over 80% of the films in the 2020 SVFF slate will have filmmakers in attendance to participate in Q&As after the screenings.The Festival will also expand its commitment to providing career-changing opportunities for independent writers and filmmakers by awarding over $200,000 in prizes through its Screenwriters Lab, the Film Lab and Wild to Inspire competitions, among others.



At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, a couple entertains an out-of-town guest looking for inspiration in her filmmaking. The group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, manipulation, and jealousy, unaware of how dangerously convoluted their lives will soon become in the filmmaker’s pursuit of a work of art, which blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention.

Writer/Director: Lawrence Michael Levine

Producers: Julie Christeas, Jonathan Blitstein, Richard J Bosner, Aubrey Plaza, Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal, Jai Khanna, Marina Grasic

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon


The seemingly separate lives of an anxious, disillusioned teen girl and a troubled, alienated man converge fatefully in this haunting exploration of womanhood, isolation, and toxic masculinity, set in 1980s Newfoundland.

Writer/Director: Nicole Dorsey

Producers: Mark O’Neill, Michael Solomon

Cast: Ella Ballentine, Ryan McDonald

* Filmmaker in Attendance – Nicole Dorsey



On the outskirts of Houston, a teen reeling from her mom’s incarceration and an aging bullfighter struggling to keep a foothold in the rodeo circuit, form an unlikely bond and attempt to right their own paths.


Director: Annie Silverstein

Writers: Annie Silverstein, Johnny McAllister

Producers: Monique Walton, Bert Marcus, Heather Rae, Ryan Zacarias, Audrey Rosenberg

Cast: Robert Morgan, Amber Havard

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Heather Rae, Monique Walton



 A on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs.


Writer/Director: Adam Carter Rehmeier

Producers: Ben Stiller, Nicholas Weinstock, Ross Putman, David Hunter, John Covert, Sam Slater

Cast: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Griffin Gluck, Pat Healy, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lea Thompson

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Adam Carter Rehmeier



An aging fast-food worker most train his young new replacement before he can retire

from 38 years of working the graveyard shift.


Writer/Director: Andrew Cohn

Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Sam Bisbee, Alex Lipschultz, Bert Kern

Cast: Richard Jenkins, Shane Paul McGhie, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Birgundi Baker, Allison Tolman, Ed O’Neill

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Andrew Cohn



The issue of migrant labour gets a winningly light touch in this musical comedy — and debut fiction film — from documentarian María Paz González, about a Peruvian woman working as a domestic helper for a wealthy Chilean family who prepares for a trip home to visit the son she left behind.


Writer/Director: María Paz González

Producers: Giancarlo Nasi, Maite Alberdi

Cast: Magaly Solier, Emilia Ossandón


MAKING SENSE – A Special Work-In-Progress Screening

An aging neuroscientist teams up with a group of young graduate students to prove his hypothesis that individuals with disabilities hold the key to unlocking a sixth sense before his past catches up with him.


Director: Gregory Bayne

Writers: Doug Cole, Gregory Bayne

Producers: Gregory Bayne, Doug Cole

Cast: Jessi Melton, Richard Klautsch, Miguel Ayala, Makenzie Ellsworth, Mike Barnett, Nyk Fry, Taylor Gonzalez

*Filmmakers in Attendance – Gregory Bayne, Doug Cole



Directed by Peter Cattaneo and starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan, MILITARY WIVES centers on a group of women in England whose partners are away serving in Afghanistan. Faced with the men’s absences, they form a choir and quickly find themselves at the center of a media sensation and global movement.


Director: Peter Cattaneo

Writers: Rosanne Flynn, Rachel Tunnard

Producers: Ben Pugh, Rory Aitken, Piers Tempest

Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Jason Flemyng



Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.


Writer/Director: Eliza Hittman

Producers: Sarah Murphy, Adele Romansky

Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Eliza Hittman


NINE DAYS – Special Screening

In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates — personifications of human souls — for the privilege that he once had: to be born.


Writer/Director: Edson Oda

Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette-Marie Kongsved, Matthew Linder, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner. Trevor Groth

Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Arianna Ortiz, David Rysdahl

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Edson Oda, Winston Duke, Jason Berman, Trevor Groth




After her father’s violent death, Native American teenager Margo Crane flees down Michigan’s Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the way, she encounters allies, enemies, danger, and the beauty of nature, all while coming to grips with her past and her own identity. A Midwestern Gothic coming-of-age fable set along the riverbanks, Chicago musician-filmmaker Haroula Rose’s debut feature is an evocative marriage of Winter’s Bone and Huckleberry Finn.


Writer/Director/Producer: Haroula Rose

Executive Producers: Heather Rae, David Macias

Cast: Kenadi Delacerna, John Ashton, Tatanka Means, Lindsay Pulsipher, Ajuawak Kapashesit

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Haroula Rose





A teenage girl suddenly finds herself struggling to take care of herself and her younger brother.


Director: Sarah Gavron

Writer: Theresa Ikoko, Claire Wilson

Producer: Ameenah Ayub Allen, Faye Ward

Cast: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali,  D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes, Tawheda Begum, Anastasia Dymitrow, Afi Okaidja, Sarah Niles



Determined to become the leader of the Dominion of Canada, a young W.L. Mackenzie King rises to power.


Writer/Director: Matthew Rankin

Producers: Gabrielle Tougas-Fréchette, Ménaïc Raoul

Cast: Dan Beirne, Sarianne Cormier, Mikhaïl Ahooja, Catherine St-Laurent, Seán Cullen, Trevor Anderson





The sensational winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is a wildly entertaining and continually revealing immersion into a week-long annual program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine closely track the escalating tensions that arise within a particularly riveting gubernatorial race, training their cameras on unforgettable teenagers like Ben, a Reagan-loving arch-conservative who brims with confidence despite personal setbacks, and Steven, a progressive-minded child of Mexican immigrants who stands by his convictions amidst the sea of red. In the process, they have created a complex portrait of contemporary American masculinity, as well as a microcosm of our often dispiriting national political divisions that nevertheless manages to plant seeds of hope. An Apple release.


Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine

Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

Executive Producers: Lauren Powell Jobs, Davis Guggenheim, Jonathan Silberberg, Nicole Stott



A hidden underground network — a collaboration of four kingdoms of life — is revealed. Explore a true first-contact story between humans and beings who communicate with a symbolic language and have maintained a representative democracy for tens of millions of years.


Director: Brannon Braga

Writers: Ann Druyan, Brannon Braga

Executive Producers: Seth MacFarlane, Jason Clark, Kara Vallow, Brannon Braga, Ann Druyan

Host: Neil deGrasse Tyson

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Ann Druyan



Told in the cinematic tradition of classic westerns, “COWBOYS – A Documentary Portrait” is a feature-length film that gives viewers the opportunity to ride alongside modern working cowboys on some of America’s largest and most remote cattle ranches. The movie documents the lives of the men and women working on these “big outfit” ranches – some of which are over one million acres – and still require full crews of horseback mounted workers to tend large herds of cattle.


Directors: Bud Force, John Langmore

Producers: Bud Force, John Langmore, Felicitas Funke, Jeffrey Brown

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Bud Force, Felicitas Funke



The rise, fall, and rise again of a Cambodian refugee who escaped genocide and overcame poverty to build a life for himself — and hundreds of other immigrant families — by baking America’s favorite pastry and building an unlikely empire of donut shops.  Everything you thought you knew about the donut begins with Ted Ngoy.


Director: Alice Gu

Writer: Carol Martori

Producer: José Nuñez

Executive Producers: Ridley Scott, Freida Lee Mock

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Alice Gu




A meticulous reconstruction of the 1979-1980 crisis, when Iranian revolutionaries

held 52 American citizens hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran. What emerged was a secret rescue mission. Desert One chronicles that operation with details and archives that have never before been revealed. The crisis culminated in Carter’s landslide loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980.


Director: Barbara Kopple

Producers: Barbara Kopple, David Cassidy, Eric Forman

Executive Producers: Zachary Behr, Eli Lehrer




Jane Goodall: The Hope follows the inspirational activist and leader throughout her never-ending travels, capturing her relentless commitment and determination to spread a message of hope.


Directors: Elizabeth Leiter, Kim Woodward






On June 8, 1924, at just 800 vertical feet from the summit of Mount Everest, British explorers George Leigh Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine were swallowed by a storm cloud and never seen again. LOST ON EVEREST attempts to find Irvine’s remains and the camera he is believed to have carried that final day, as the film inside could rewrite history. Armed with a team of elite climbers who have new intel on the location of Irvine’s body, the daring special sets out to solve one of exploration’s greatest mysteries.


Director: Renan Ozturk

Producers: Drew Pulley, Aimee Tetreault

Executive Producer: Taylor Rees

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Renan Ozturk



Every day for decades, extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world with his televised horoscopes. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter reached over 120 million viewers at his peak, enthralling the Latin world with sequined capes, opulent jewelry and horoscopes that shared a message of love and hope to his devoted viewers. Then, he mysteriously disappeared.


Directors: Cristina Costantini & Kareem Tabsch

Producers: Cristina Costantini, Alex Fumero & Kareem Tabsch

Executive Producers: Darren Foster, Lisa Leingang, Mona Panchal & Jeffrey Plunkett

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Jeffrey Plunkett



Our Gorongosa, it’s a story of an African park in Mozambique that recognized that to thrive in today’s world, protecting the animals is only half the battle. Gorongosa National Park is working towards empowering communities with a focus on women to lift them out of poverty and achieve their full potential. This is a new vision for conservation in the 21st Century, where people and animals must coexist, to the benefit of them all.


Narrator: Dominique Gonçalves

Writers: James Byrne, Gráinne Keegan, Carla Rebai, Jared Lipworth

Producers: James Byrne, Sean B. Carroll, Jared Lipworth

Executive Producers: James Byrne, Gráinne Keegan, Carla Rebai

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Greg Carr



On the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, a devastating firestorm engulfed the picturesque city of Paradise, California. By the time the Camp Fire was extinguished, it had killed 85 people, displaced 50,000 residents and destroyed 95% of local structures. It was the deadliest U.S. fire in 100 years — and the worst ever in California’s history. In REBUILDING PARADISE, Academy Award winning director RON HOWARD led a filmmaking team to the city and would go on to spend a year with Paradise residents, documenting their efforts to recover what was lost. The Camp Fire and its overwhelming aftermath became a de facto lesson in what we all must do: protect our environment, help our neighbors, plan for future dangers and remember to preserve the traditions that unite us.


Director: Ron Howard

Producers: Brian Grazer, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Xan Parker, Lizz Morhain

Executive Producers: Carolyn Bernstein, Ryan Harrington

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Justin Wilkes




The film tells the improbable story of how Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who couldn’t get a job despite tying first in her graduating law class and making Law Review at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools, became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. It also reveals both the public and private sides of a resilient, resourceful woman who has survived the hostility of the profoundly male universe of government and law to become a revered Justice and icon for gender equality and women’s rights.


Director/Producer: Freida Lee Mock

Writers: Freida Lee Mock, Mike Aguilar

Executive Producers: Geralyn Dreyfous, Regina K. Scully, Barbara Dobkin, Sandra Lee, Danielle Mark, Cara Kennedy-Cuomo

Associate Producer: Meghan Hooper

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Freida Lee Mock, Lili Haydn



Mariana van Zeller embarks on a harrowing road trip from Los Angeles to Sinaloa, Mexico to uncover how a lethal supply chain of American firearms is arming the cartels and fueling violence throughout Mexico.


Director: Eric Strauss

Correspondent: Mariana Van Zeller

Producers: Rodrigo Gonzales, Eric Strauss

Executive Producers: Jeffrey Plunkett, Darren Foster, Ben Selkow, Mariana Van Zeller

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Mariana Van Zeller, Jeffrey Plunkett



“We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” Stewart Brand wrote in ‘68. The legendary pioneer of LSD, cyberspace, futurism, and modern environmentalism now urges people to use our god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species.


Directors: David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Composer: Brian Eno

* Filmmakers in Attendance – David Alvarado



​A small native community in rural Montana experienced a cluster suicide epidemic (22 suicides in a single year) – two of these deaths  were members on the same basketball team, Walter and Josiah.


Director: Jamie Elias

Producer: Trent Cooper

Executive Producers: Kristen Klabin, Alex Klabin

Co-Producers: Jamie Elias, Addison Neville

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Jamie Elias




Soaring above the chaotic spectacle of ‘80s and ‘90s Los Angeles, a young couple revolutionized breaking news with their brazen helicopter reporting. Culled from this news duo’s sprawling video archive, WHIRLYBIRD is a poignant L.A. story of a family in turbulence hovering over a city unhinged.


Director: Matt Yoka

Producer: Diane Becker

Featuring: Zoey Tur, Marika Gerrard, Katy Tur & James Tur

Composer: Ty Segall

* Filmmakers in Attendance – Matt Yoka



Passes for the 2020 Festival can now be purchased at www.sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.



About the Sun Valley Film Festival & Sun Valley Film Initiative

Since 2012 the Sun Valley Film Festival has invited fans and filmmakers to America’s first ski resort to celebrate the magic of storytelling. The year-round Sun Valley Film Initiative develops professionals and Illuminates the process of filmmaking, propelling emerging voices with grants and education. Each March, the Festival celebrates with a slate of cutting-edge films and TV premieres, industry panels, engaging Coffee Talks with entertainment luminaries, a Screenwriters Lab led by award-winning writers, and a series of parties culminating with the spectacular SVFF Awards Bash. The 2020 SVFF will be held March 18-22. SVFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Learn more at sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.





Media Contacts:

Steven Wilson, Scenario, steven.wilson@scenariopr.com

Carol Waller, CW Communications, carol@cw-communications.com


Media Image Gallery: https://sunvalleyfilmfestival.org/press-photos/