The history of film in Idaho includes Marilyn Monroe (Bus Stop), Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider) and of course Napoleon Dynamite.
However, a large chapter of that history also includes Nell Shipman, director, screenwriter, actress, animal advocate and, many historians would argue, legend. In the early 20th century, after breaking into the male-dominated movie industry, Shipman packed her 10-year-old son and moved to the wilderness of northern Idaho.
In 25 years, Shipman made 27 feature-length films including God's Country and the Woman, Under the Crescent (based on her own novel), Back to God's Country, The Girl from God's Country, The Grub-Stake and Wings in the Dark. Shipman's films feature stunning backcountry photography, including scenes of dog-sledding through Idaho's wilderness, jumping into raging rivers for breathtaking rescues, groundbreaking nude scenes and images of Shipman embracing animals—bears, cougars, you name it.
Shipman was the very definition of an independent filmmaker, living hand-to-mouth to film her breakthrough projects. As a result, she was ignored by the Hollywood system. She died penniless and nearly forgotten, which is all the more reason to see Girl From God's Country, a new Idaho-made documentary from director Karen Day, showing at 7 p.m., Sunday, March 15, at The Egyptian Theatre. The film, which premiered at last week's Sun Valley Film Festival, has an endless amount of archival images from Shipman's films and is a treasure-trove for any historian or film fan.
Girl From God's Country also dovetails into a bigger examination of women in film, past, present and future; and audiences will leave with a call to action to support more women filmmakers with a vote from the pocketbook.
"Do you want to see more women filmmakers? Go see their movies on opening weekend. That's how you do it That''s how women will get to make more feature films," says one advocate in the film. "Awards? Those go to the people who have access."
Just imagine that today's Motion Picture Academy would be smart or brave enough to honor such a pioneer as Shipman.
General tickets for the Girl From God's Country screening are $20. Special VIP tickets are $100 and include a special wine and cheese reception at 5 p.m., when fans can talk with the filmmakers and get a special screening of Finding Nell, a 15-minute short film. Proceeds benefit the Neil Shipman Grant for Emerging Filmmakers.