Don't Pan the Panhandle 

Inaugural festival is Sanpoint man's birthday wish

Six months ago Trevor Greenfield asked his father what he wanted for his 68th birthday. The one-time filmmaker, Fred Greenfield, answered that he wanted his own film festival, so that's what he's getting this year. Now Sandpoint, Idaho, is gearing up for the Idaho Panhandle International Film Festival, set to invade the historic Panida Theater August 24-26.

Billed as three days of cinematic delight, the IPIFF is a celebration of independent films and filmmakers from around the globe. And according to the Greenfields, the goal of the festival is to "provide a level of quality ... that extends beyond the walls of our venues, right to the hearts and minds of our audience and our filmmakers." So film buffs this side of Lewiston, saddle up and get moving north for a film fest. It's only 500 miles from Boise.

The Greenfields have come a long way in the 26 weeks since the festival's conception. In only six months they have actually pulled together a relatively large gathering of filmmakers and film fans. There are already 26 festival sponsors, and apparently they sold quickly, which indicates that the North Idaho community not only supports--but is itching for--a festival to call its own.

Fred Greenfield puts it simply: "A lot of people want to see a bunch of movies."

And in return for the support, the community gets some free shows. "Wednesday night we're putting on a free feature for the people of Sandpoint," says Greenfield. "Seating is limited, so there's a slide show outside for anyone who doesn't get into the free film."

The free film is the West Coast premiere of The Trouble with Dee Dee, directed by Michael Meiners. It is the story of an eccentric socialite who is disowned by her millionaire father and abandoned by her teenage son, and apparently, it's a comedy.

In addition to the free flick, the festival is showing 55 films from all over the world. "We got 150 submissions and one-third of them were really good. Those are the ones we'll use," says Greenfield, who boasts not only publicity manager and but head of security as his festival titles. "It is a true international festival with the emphasis on good movies. We're not looking for star power or edgy films."

Greenfield says most of these independent films are shorts, and many are premieres, such as Sira, an experimental short film from India by director Tanikella Bharani. The story about a poet, human rights and global terrorism is making its U.S. premiere. And North Idaho director Ken Reed is hosting the world premiere of his documentary Eco-Traveler Safari--Sarawak, an adventure travel film set in the jungles of Borneo that follows a hunt for the rare Bintangor tree, which is rumored to aid in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

"We did not accept any horror films," Greenfield says of the selection process. "We asked throughout the international independent film community for good storytelling and we got great stuff. Some are extremely compelling human dramas. We have both narrative and documentary films."

And in addition to Reed's documentary, a few more films are made by Northwest filmmakers, some of whom will introduce their own films. Even festival organizer and Idaho director Trevor Greenfield will speak before the screening of his short film, High Fire Danger!, a comedy about the dry town of Rogue Spirit that was filmed in silent black and white.

Another notable short making its world premiere on Thursday, August 24, is The Fast One, directed by Boisean Zachary Kranzler. According to Greenfield, Kranzler is the only Boise filmmaker whose work will appear in the festival, and he'll be in Sandpoint introducing his film about one night in the life of a guy named Gerald.

But like Greenfield said, this is a regular film festival, so the films aren't just showing, they're being judged and awards will be given at the end. The festival has a secret six-member panel of voting judges who will give out 15 trophies that, according to Greenfield, are "bigger and more beautiful than Oscars." Though in true local-event form, each film will receive some kind of award based on something poignant about it.

The festivities will culminate on Sunday in a Best of the Fest celebration, but that's not the end of the IPIFF. The organizers are taking the show on the road. "We have the rights for up to one year to exhibit the films in adjoining states," says Greenfield, who is taking the Best of the Fest films to Missoula on September 16 and to Spokane on September 23 for two four-hour programs per day.

If all those points are too far a drive for you Treasure Valley folk, well, "We're working on (going to) Portland and Seattle," he says. "And maybe sometime between now and when we do our next festival, we can do it in Boise."

For more information on the Idaho Panhandle International Film Festival, visit www.ipiff.com.

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