In the years before movies had color or even sound, one woman traded her Hollywood spotlight for the open skies of Idaho where she was free to tell her stories her way. In 1922, Nell Shipman arrived at Priest Lake where she wrote, directed, produced, starred in and sold her own independent films.Her story is told in “Girl In God’s Country,” directed by one of Idaho’s only active female filmmakers, Karen Day, and featured in the Silverthorne Artist’s Series that begins Tuesday, March 1.
Day discovered Shipman’s little known story while doing research for a book project on the history of Idaho and wondered how she had never heard of this woman. Over a two-year period, Day’s research turned up a story not only about Idaho’s pioneer film artist but how her story related to the history of women in filmmaking — their contributions, why and how those were erased and the effect that has had on the perception of women in film.
“I had a great moral dilemma. No one is going to die if I don’t tell this story. So I had to look at my motivation as a journalist, author and filmmaker. My role in that is to give voice to those who can’t give voice themselves,” said Day.
That voice matters, Day said, because it affects the girls and women who aren’t seeing their stories and perspectives represented in film. Shipman, for example, had been portrayed as a helpless character in Hollywood. In her own films, however, she was a capable female heroine in the wilderness rescuing the male lead.
“Girl From God’s Country,” which was released last year, has appeared at size film festivals — winning Best Documentary at the Artisan Festival International: Cannes World Cinema — and is scheduled to release on TV in 2017.
“The truth is that Nell’s story is picking up more momentum this year than last because there’s so much publicity on the lack of diversity for women and ethnic groups,” said Day, referencing recent public criticism that, for the second year in a row, all 20 Academy Award nominees for lead and supporting actors are white. To that, Day added that of the top 100 grossing films of 2015, only 4 were directed by women.
“Nell is an interesting story,” said Day. “I didn’t make it as a feminist statement — it’s an Idaho story. She is something that as a state we can take cultural pride in that.”
Catching Up with Karney Hatch
Since it’s screening last March in Moscow, interest in Lewiston High School graduate Karney Hatch’s film on urban farming has only grown. “Plant This Movie,” is playing March 4 at the Silverthorne Theatre in Lewiston.
The documentary typically gets one to four screening requests a week and has played on five different continents. Hatch is also finalizing details for an upcoming East Coast film tour in relation to Earth Day. Audience response has been positive, he said, and viewers often leave inspired to convert yard space into a place to grow food.
“Urban farming continues to be a growing trend,” Hatch said in a phone interview, which he credits for being at least partly responsible for the continued and growing interest in the film.
Following the screening in Lewiston, Hatch will be available to answer questions. He is currently exploring several potential projects for his next film.
If you go:
WHAT: Silverthorne Artist’s Series: Independent Film Series
WHEN: 7 p.m., March 1-5
WHERE: Silverthorne Theatre on the Lewis-Clark State College campus in Lewiston
COST: $5/film or $20/series, free for LCSC students. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or in advance at the Center for Arts and History or online at www.lcsc.edu/ce.
March 1 – Girl From God’s Country
This film tells the story of Nell Shipman, a silent film star who came to Idaho to produce her own films, setting a valuable precedent for women in filmmaking. Director Karen Day will be available for questions after the screening.
March 2 – A Ballerina’s Tale
Exploring the themes of body image and race, this documentary focuses on the rise and potentially career-ending injury of Misty Copeland.
March 3 – An Inconvenient Truth
This film explores the myths and misconceptions that surround global warming; a brief panel discussion will follow the screening.
March 4 – Plant This Movie
Directed by Lewiston High School graduate, Karney Hatch, this movie explores the urban farming movement around the world; Hatch will be available for questions after the screening.
March 5 – The Best of the 42nd NW Filmmakers’ Festival Tour
A selection of work from Northwest filmmakers.