By Ben Olson
If you look up Erik Daarstad on IMDB.com, you’ll find his first film credit is listed as a cinematographer for a war film called “Hell Squad” in 1958. So began Daarstad’s nearly 60-year career in film that has seen his hand in everything to TV movies to Academy Award-winning documentaries.
Of course, you might never realize this upon first meeting Daarstad. The soft-spoken Sandpointian famous for his cardigan sweaters and ear-to-ear smile might fool you into thinking he isn’t a big deal. His easy manner and poignant way with words might lead you to believe he was just another kind older gentleman spending his retirement years in our community.
The truth is, Erik Daarstad is kind of a big deal.
As a way to recognize the octogenarian cinematographer for his lifetime achievements in film, as well as his unflagging support of the arts in Sandpoint, Sandpoint Film Festival and the Panida Theater are holding a roast in honor of the famous cardigan-wearing Norwegian.
The Erik Daarstad Roast will be fun, light-hearted and inspiring to those who have had the pleasure to meet Daarstad. It will take place Friday, June 16, at 7 p.m. at the Panida Theater. Appetizers and a no-host bar will be offered in the Little Panida Theater starting at 6:30 p.m.
“Erik is such an accomplished filmmaker and human being,” said Janice Jarzabek, the coordinator for Sandpoint Film Festival and personal friend of Daarstad’s. “I’ve learned so much from him about filmmaking. He’s a wonderful humanitarian.”
Jarzabek said she and a group of Daarstad’s friends put together the roast to pay homage to the man in a fun way: “I could not have put this together without the help of Eric Ridgway and Donna Short,” she said.
“This is a town party with no entry fee,” said Jarzabek. “It’s a free party for all family and friends of Erik Daarstad with a lot of fun skits and a big group of the people who love Erik paying tribute to him.”
Jarzabek said she treasures her experience with Daarstad while screening potential films to include in the annual Sandpoint Film Festival.
“Erik is the eyes and ears of the Sandpoint Film Festival,” said Jarzabek. “We’re in our eighth year and since it’s free to enter the festival, we get a lot of submissions. This year, we’ve had more than 1,500 submissions already and we watch every single one of them. Erik’s critiques are always appreciated.”
Daarstad has lived a storied career in film that spans an unbelievable seven decades. Mostly focusing on documentary filming, Daarstad has been credited as director of photography for scores of worthwhile projects.
The 2013 documentary “Anita” was a profile of Anita Hill, the African-American lawyer who challenged Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and thus exposed the problem of sexual harassment to the world. In 2012’s “G-Dog,” the documentary takes a look at the life and work of Father Greg Boyle, a gang reformer. The film has a 100-percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Other notable titles include 2008’s “Butte, America: The Saga of a Hard Rock Mining Town,” and his latest, “Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey.”
Over the years, Daarstad has traveled the world and left a lasting mark on cinema. He was cinematographer for the 1968 animated short documentary film “Why Man Creates” which won an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.
Jarzabek recounts a funny story Daarstad told her once involving a rhinoceros.
“He was chased by a rhinoceros at one point in his filmmaking career,” she said. “He was running from the rhino and tripped over a cord. The rhino ended up tripping, too, and Erik didn’t get killed.”
Daarstad culminated his experiences in a memoir titled “Through the Lens of History: The Life Journey of a Cinematographer,” published by Keokee Books in 2015.
“Erik Daarstad is truly one of the world’s great cinematographers,” wrote Terry Sanders, two-time Academy Award Winning Filmmaker/Director. “I’ve worked with Erik on more than 30 films and have always been impressed with, and grateful for, his many wonderful qualities. Children and dogs (maybe all animals) immediately love and trust him. Erik is a man of few words, and when he speaks, he is self-effacing and modest. After an incredibly good day of filming, where wonderful shots have been captured, Erik will often say, quietly, but with a twinkle, ‘Lucked out again.’”
Whether you are a dear friend of Daarstad’s or merely appreciate his work and support of arts in Sandpoint, the roast will be a chance to share some laughs with one of our community’s most talented citizens. A $10 donation to the Panida Theater includes a glass of beer or wine, plus appetizers, cake and coffee. If you can’t afford to donate, come watch the roast anyway, as it is free and open to the public.
The Erik Daarstad Roast kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 16 at the Panida Theater. Appetizers and a no-host bar will be offered in the Little Panida Theater starting at 6:30 p.m.