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Arts & Culture

Idaho Filmmaker Premieres Documentary About Silent Movie Star Nell Shipman

Karen Day
Nell Shipman and one of the animals in her menagerie.

Last April, we told you the story of one Idaho woman filmmaker struggling to make a documentary about a pioneer of Idaho filmmaking.

Documentarian Karen Day has spent two years trying to tell the story of Nell Shipman. Shipman was a silent film star in 1922 in Hollywood. Tired of the industry, she packed up her zoo of 70 animal actors and moved to Idaho’s Priest Lake. Using her menagerie of eagles, bears, bobcats and sled dogs, she wrote, directed and stared in 25 independent films.

Those films were lost for 60 years, until they were rediscovered by a professor at Boise State University in the 1980s. Once Karen Day learned of Shipman’s story, she was hooked, and started making a documentary about her life.

Last April, Day was raising money through Kickstarter to get the funds she needed to complete her film. She called Shipman a pioneer.

“She was portraying women in a really unusual manner, which would be competent and capable of dealing with any kind of situation in the wilderness," says Day.

Day made her Kickstarter goal and has been plugging along on the film, entitled "Girl From God's Country."

“Not only is it Idaho history, it’s the idea that these women almost a hundred years ago  have been forgotten. But the legacy and the work -- the art that they’ve created -- impacts women in film today.”

It took Day two years and $100,000 to finish the film. The documentary has its world premiere Friday at the Sun Valley Film Festival and will screen again March 15 at Boise's Boise’s Egyptian Theater.  The film next goes on the road to 13 different film festivals around the country.

Here's a look at the trailer for the documentary "Girl From God's Country."


Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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