Park City International Film Festival features family-friendly films |

Park City International Film Festival features family-friendly films

Park City is a mecca for film lovers. It hosts the Sundance Film Festival in the winter and outdoor screenings in the summer.

It features the Miner Film Festival in the spring and the Park City Film Series that runs from fall to early summer.

And it’s about to add another.

On Wednesday, Aug. 10, the three-day Park City International Film Festival will debut at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. (For a list of events, see story titled “Park City International Film Festival schedule”)

This festival is different from other festivals because of its theme, “Elevating the Human Spirit.” All the films submitted and selected are family-friendly and have a running theme to show the human condition in a positive and uplifting way, said the festival’s Celebrity Ambassador Sam Sorbo.

“[It centers] on the part of where we, as human beings, are succeeding and where we are overcoming and doing better than surviving,” said Sorbo, during a call from a film set in Birmingham, Alabama. “In that small way, it might be a way of patting people on the back and saying, ‘You know what? In spite of all the flaws that we’re so eager to point out in our culture and society today, there are places where we are excelling.’”

Sorbo, wife of fellow actor and celebrity ambassador Kevin Sorbo, said the festival, like most film festivals, featured a jury who screened each movie and selected 36 independent films including shorts, documentaries and features.

“We received some amazing submissions from all over the world,” Sorbo said. “It was amazing to see the variety. I wish we could give all the films a medal because it is tough putting one together, because just getting a film done is just a triumph.”

The films that will be screened during the festival were selected by a grand jury featuring Academy Award-winning filmmaker Kieth Merrill, film-music composer Joseph Alfuso, former Interim Utah Film Commission Commissioner Derek Mellus, actor, writer and director Michael Flynn and producer Patrick Millsap, co-founder and CEO of Londonderry Entertainment.

While all films exhibited the film festival’s theme, the topics varied, Sorbo said.

“There was such diversity that I don’t think you can put your finger on any particular trend,” she said. “We had submission guidelines. The films had to adhere to these guidelines in terms of content and subject matter. So, it wouldn’t be representative for me to try to ascribe any kinds of trends in terms of content, subject matter or anything like that.”

However, all of the films submitted and selected were created through different techniques and filmmakers used everything from high-grade digital cameras to mobile phones.

“You can come at making film in a variety of manners,” Sorbo said. “Some people lack the resources for acquiring state-of-the-art camera equipment, so they get it done the best way they know how.”

The festival’s opening night will include the worldwide premiere of Darran Scott’s “Spirit of the Game.”

The film, which stars Kevin Sorbo, is a docudrama about a group of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were tasked with helping the fledgling Australian basketball team compete in their first ever Olympics in 1956.

To be clear, the decision to screen that film came from the film festival organizers and not from the Sorbos, Sam Sorbo said.

“I didn’t weigh in on selecting the film because my husband is in the film and I felt it would give it an unfair advantage, and Kevin felt the same way,” she said. “The other organizers thought it was a great tie-in. It’s a foreign film and has other qualifications to be included in the festival, but they thought it had a neat tie-in because Kevin’s in it.”

Although earlier this week the Internet lit up with accusations that one of the filmmakers of the film has been accused of sexual assault in his native Australia, the film will be screened as planned, according to a film festival statement.

“The ‘Spirit of the Game,’ like any film, is a collaborative effort of many people,” the statement read. “While the allegations are disheartening, the film is fantastic and inspiring; we are grateful to have this film open our festival. We are excited to unite a worldwide premiere of a true story with a celebration of the Mormon Yankee legacy brought to the big screen.”

The Park Record does not name suspects until they are booked in court, and according to the press release, the case’s hearing has been adjourned until August, 2017.

Furthermore, the magistrate has also “issued a suppression order against any reporting on the case until/if it reaches trial,” according to the statement.

In addition to the films, the festival will feature panel discussions and a tour of the Park City Film Studios.

“We are very excited about the tour,” Sorbo said. “The Park City Film Studio is a great resource for filmmakers and it’s right there in town.”

Other events include a night of “Hollywood Hits” featuring the Unity Gospel Choir and the Salt Lake Pops Orchestra with special guests Jennifer Nicole and guitarist and humorist Mike Rayburn and an evening of family-friendly stand-up comedy by Emmy Award-Nominated comedian Chonda Pierce.

The festival will culminate with an awards ceremony where winners will not only receive a custom-built trophy, but cash prizes that total more than $10,000.

“Of course we’re looking ahead to next year, but it’s been a task getting this one done,” Sorbo said. “We want to see this one through and take stock and see what worked and what didn’t work as well and where we can improve and advance and take it from there.

“This is a film festival in Park City where you can park and wear shorts,” she said with a laugh. “It should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it and I hope people come out and have a good time.”

The Park City International Film Festival will be held at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., from Wednesday, Aug. 10, to Saturday, Aug. 13. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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