Minnetonka High School graduate produces documentary inspired by late friend.
Some kids dream about growing up and moving across the country to make movies. While these dreams don’t always become a reality, former Minnetonka resident Alia Tarraf made it happen.
Tarraf called Minnetonka home for most of her childhood and graduated from Minnetonka High School. The former Skipper now works for Disney in Los Angeles. Her dream to make movies began to take shape when she was a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield. After graduation, she moved to New York City to become an independent filmmaker. “I realized there’s not a lot of money in independent filmmaking, especially in New York,” she says. “I saw there were a lot more opportunities in Los Angeles.” She moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and eventually landed a studio production job with Disney in 2011.
While Tarraf gains a lot of inspiration through her work, it was a friend and coworker who impacted her latest and most personal project.
Her friend Allison Wilke Gryphon passed away in 2016 after a battle with breast cancer. Being a filmmaker herself, she documented her journey with cancer through short vlogs. Tarraf and Mary Beth Gentle found the videos and decided to do something with them, so they created A Hidden Star, a documentary about the grief surrounding the friend’s death and the journey of bringing her ashes to Ireland. “It’s a mix between our journey through grief and the home videos our friend made,” Tarraf says.
Tarraf produced and co-directed the project with Gentle. They were able to work on the project while still working for Disney. They’re currently looking for a distribution platform for the film, but it was shown at the Twin Cities Film Festival (2021), the Vail Film Festival (2021) and the Red Dirt Film Festival in Oklahoma in April. “It was wonderful to get to show it [A Hidden Star] in my home state,” Tarraf says.
While the film deals with loss due to an illness, grief is a universal theme, and it could resonate with a lot of viewers. “With the pandemic, a lot of people are dealing with grief, so A Hidden Star can be a tough watch,” Tarraf says. “But the ending is full of hope.”
What’s next? Tarraf is hard at work on some other projects that she can’t talk about quite yet. While she is excited about them, she has her eye on a dream project, hoping to someday direct a fictional film with one of her favorite actresses. “I would love to direct Emma Thompson,” Tarraf says. “I just love her.”