About Us

Sagebrush Hills Film Festival is dedicated to presenting an array of relevant and engaging films to the Yakima Valley community. Our mission is to inspire meaningful dialogue and transcend cultural boundaries by bringing people together through the shared experience of film.

Conception Story

Sagebrush Hills Film Festival is the long-percolating brainchild of Soo Choi. Soo was raised in Yakima and lived here most of her life, excluding a four-year stint away at New York University. After graduation, she came home and she brought something with her: an idea of how to finally overcome an obstacle that was ever present in her childhood. Growing up as the daughter of hard-working immigrants who encountered cultural and communication barriers every single day, Soo had firsthand experience with the walls that arise between different social groups…and she could never really find a way to bring those walls down. During her life in New York City she finally stumbled on a possible answer. Film. Film can transcend language barriers by portraying themes visually. Film can transcend cultural barriers by transporting a viewer into the heart and mind of an unfamiliar culture. Film can depict a universal experience, and two very different people with two very different backgrounds can both understand that experience. The concept of a film festival that would celebrate the cinematic arts while bringing together different cultural groups through a shared experience seemed both obvious and entirely daunting.

Soo enlisted (begged) her friend and co-conspirator, Clayton Bussey, to help her turn this conceptual film festival into a reality. The underlying idea beneath the festival is that if you and the person next to you watch the same thoughtful, entertaining film, you suddenly have common ground for conversation -- regardless of how different your background may appear to be. And that conversation is how communities grow and strengthen.

A discussion with the Yakima Valley Museum about film festivals made it clear that the Museum would be the perfect venue for the first of the film festivals. “Sagebrush Hills” became the festival’s name, because sagebrush embodies the Yakima Valley – it is seemingly unobtrusive from afar but completely vibrant and teeming with beauty and energy once you look closer.

After months of careful deliberation over the inaugural program, the doors of Sagebrush Hills Film Festival are open wide. Come on in. Let’s watch a movie together!

Photo credit: Thayne Jongeward |  www.thaynejongewaard.com

Soo Choi (aka "51%")

When Soo isn’t serving as both the brain and the brawn behind Sagebrush Hills Film Festival, she’s working at her day job (you know...the one that actually pays the bills). When she’s not working at her day job, she’s probably working in her garden. When she’s not working in her garden, she’s probably picking up a new hobby that she’ll forget about after two weeks. You get the picture: she stays busy.

Born in Queens, New York, Soo moved with her family to Yakima when she was a child, but she always dreamed of returning to the big city. However, when she did return to New York as a bright-eyed college student, she quickly realized that the place she truly needed to be was the place from which she’d started (The Alchemist, anyone?). Soo returned from college with a diploma in her hand, a pile of debt on her back, and a new dream in her head: find a way to give back to the place that reared her. Sagebrush Hills Film Festival is her love letter to the Yakima Valley.

Photo credit: Thayne Jongeward | www.thaynejongewaard.com

Clayton Bussey (aka "49%")

Clayton is an invasive species to the Yakima Valley; he moved here in 2011 and he quickly fell in love with his new home. His friends and family were shocked, as he normally doesn’t do ANYTHING quickly. Fortunately for Sagebrush Hills, there’s a lot more to Clayton than just his slow, meandering pace. He’s also quite tall.

Being active in the community and watching movies are both important to Clayton, so he jumped at the chance to help Soo start Sagebrush Hills Film Festival. While he originally thought it would be just another of Soo’s wild ideas, it actually turned into a full-fledged passion project with a life of its own...basically, a second job with abysmal pay and benefits. When he’s not spontaneously signing up for random adventures, Clayton can be found in his default “Off” position: slack-jawed and immobile on his couch. If you happen to see him in the wild, introduce yourself - he’d love to meet you!

Let's watch a movie together!