International Idyllwild Film Festival closes out triumphant 8th season
■ By Halima Haider / Reporter
Former “Ramona” in Hemet’s iconic eponymous outdoor play, Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer graced Idyllwild last weekend for the closing festivities of the International Idyllwild Festival of Cinema (IIFC), which The Hollywood Reporter has previously called “the best little film festival on earth.”
Archer, best known for her roles in “Fatal Attraction” starring Michael Douglas and “Patriot Games” featuring Harrison Ford, divulged many facets of her legendary career, the boons to collaborating with some of Hollywood’s most respected leading male actors, and her distinct approach to acting and working with directors in both film and on stage, including her theatrical stint as “Ramona” at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre in Hemet in 1969. Archer revealed all of these details in a scintillating hour-long, sold out Q&A session hosted by the founder and director of IIFC, Stephen Savage, on Saturday, Jan. 14. Next day, she handed out awards at the 8th annual IIFC gala awards ceremony, closing the end of an epic passage of burgeoning filmmakers [that was the film fest] with an illuminating bang.
“I was a student at Claremont College at the time, and it was kind of my first role acting in a big arena,” Archer told The Valley Chronicle when asked about her historical performance in “Ramona.” “I loved it, and felt very passionate about it. ‘Ramona’ was a really educating role, and to say the very least, I grew a lot from it.”
The origin of “Ramona” dates back to 1884 when Helen Hunt Jackson’s famed titular novel was published. A tragic tale of two lovers that poetically encapsulates the genocidal history of Southern California’s native people in all its rightful poignancy, “Ramona” became an instant classic. And as it most often happens with classics, in 1923, the hit novel was adapted into the theatrical act that continues to pull at the heartstrings of those who attend. A decade before Archer’s incumbency as “Ramona,” Golden Globe-winner and Hollywood sex symbol Raquel Welch played in the title role in 1959 –– a groundbreaking moment in Hemet’s history. “Ramona” has officially been coined “the longest running American drama” and is the state of California’s official outdoor play.
Savage rewrote the script for the play in 2015, which raised some questions. To which Savage replied in a statement: “The audience will totally recognize this as “Ramona.” The big surprise is it has not changed as much as people think.”
Archer’s participation at IIFC was made possible courtesy of San Jacinto-based “Golden Era Productions,” the film studio of the famed international headquarters of the Church of Scientology, also in San Jacinto.
“I’ve cared for human rights ever since I was a child,” Archer remarked with poise during Saturday’s Q&A. “I’ve been a Scientologist for a while now; one important aspect of which is taking the responsibility to help your community, and the world in order to lead a good life.”
Archer added that she started an organization in 2006 called Artists for Human Rights, which enables artists to make their voice heard on human rights issues. The penchant to do good in the community is a shared trope within the Church of Scientology and its affiliates, many of whom are active members of the valley.
For the first time in IIFC’s history, two riveting documentaries took top awards home: Cassie Jaye’s controversial look at the Men’s Rights Movement, “The Red Pill,” was awarded the Chuck Washington Best of Festival trophy, and Fran Strine’s scrupulous homage to studio and backing musicians, “Hired Gun,” obtained the Best Documentary and the Audience Choice statues.
“The Red Pill” walked away with prizes in directing and producing. The big narrative winners for 2017 were Estes Tarver’s “Changeover,” which garnered numerous top honors in the feature film categories, and a remarkable short film, “Standpoint,” directed by 18-year-old Erik Hirschhorn that effortlessly regaled festival-goers, meriting four trophies in acting and production. On the international front, accolades went to films from India, Kosovo, and the UK. The biggest audience draw for 2017 was the premiere of the western drama TV pilot, “Tucker’s War,” which played at two sold out houses at The Rustic Theatre.
IIFC debuted in 2009 as the “Idyllwild Film Festival” by Savage, entrepreneur Charles Huddleston, producers Bill Triplett and Mona Lee-Taggart, writer-photographer Julia Countryman, speaker-author Denise McGregor, businesswoman Kathy Sachar Wilson, and film enthusiasts Kevin and Deborah Brennan.
“After completing our 8th year, we’ve received overwhelming responses from our international filmmakers,” said Trinity Houston, executive director of IIFC. “They all reiterated the same thing The Hollywood Reporter said about us a few years back. Since it’s our goal to be a festival for filmmakers, we couldn’t ask for a greater compliment.”