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Idaho International Film Festival 2009

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Every fall, the Idaho International Film Festival comes to Boise to showcase a collection of some of the year's best independent films. Now in its seventh year, the "festival village" created by the convergence of filmmakers, critics and the community helps foster an interest in the arts and culture.

The not-for-profit festival's goal is to promote arts and culture by bringing independent films from in and outside the state into the public forum for the general community to enjoy, as well as to encourage and develop Idaho-based films. Couple that with a feast of galas and workshops and you've got yourself a recipe for a good time: fun, film and food.

With over 50 films to watch, it's going to be tough decided which ones to see, so we offer a run-down on but a few that are worth checking out.

Godspeed

Charlie Shepard's life is falling apart. A modern day faith-healer, Shepard believes his intense passion for the lord gives him the ability to heal others, earning a meager living by giving private healings. But when his old drinking habit starts to creep up on him again, the strength of Shepard's marriage is tested. And just when things can't get worse, his family is murdered, with no clue as to why. Six months later, Shepard is hardly living at all. He walks like a ghost through his small Alaskan town. One day, a mysterious girl named Sarah seeks Shepard out to help with her own grief-stricken father. On the journey to her remote home in the wilderness, Shepard is forced to square off with Sarah's troubled brother Luke. Godspeed is an intense story of life and death.

Dead Oar Alive

This film, produced by Boise's own 8th Note Films, was shot as a low-budget tongue-in-cheek horror flick. In silent black and white, Dead Oar Alive chronicles the consequences of a woman's attempt at murder. Using an oar, she brutally beats her lover to death. The man comes back to life, hunting her in his zombie-like state. His shuffling about the house, set to genre-specific music, makes for an awkward, albeit comical movie about returning from the dead.

Cookies & Cream

Of mixed racial background, Carmen is a hard-working single mother who is forced to take a job in adult entertainment to support her daughter and herself. Things get complicated when she meets a man and attempts to balance her personal life with her professional obligations. She struggles with whether to tell him, and deals with confronting "fans" on the streets in this character-piece, a story of the hurdles that life can create.

Pachamama

Japanese director Toshifumi Matsushita, who is now based in the United States, showcases his skillful documentarian hand with his first narrative feature film. Pachamama is set in Bolivia, on the Salar de Uyuni, or Salt Lake. Centering around the life of young Kunturi, the film documents the boy's life as he embarks upon his first trek with a llama caravan. The boy and his father travel along the Ruta de la Sal for three months, trading blocks of salt chipped from the lake for goods with other merchants of the Andes. This documentary-style film employs non-professional actors to depict the traditional Quecha life.

Charlie Valentine

Charlie Valentine is a man whose motto "go quick... and never look back" helped him become one of the most dangerous criminals alive. A gangster with a refined taste for fine women and big guns, he also happens to be a gourmet chef, too. When his life gets rocky, Valentine, played by Raymond J. Barry, seeks out the son he abandoned. Played by Michael Weatherby, the son wants to know one thing: how to be Charlie Valentine. A powerful film about the bonds of family, vice and corruption, Charlie Valentine tests the adage, "Like father, like son."

Nausea

Nausea, directed by Boise's Wes Malvini, is a sick tale or, rather, a tale of sickness. "The Man" works idly at a bookstore, disgusted with his own boredom and skewed sense of reality. Everything changes when he spies "The Woman" in a bar. She is also a lonely, desensitized husk of what it means to be successful, to live, to try. Obsessed, he follows her every move in a growing sense of nauseating desperation. This film, based on the novel of the same name by Jean-Paul Sartre, is an exploration into the psyche of the human mind, and the need for a significant other. Evil Wine films uses a jarring cinematic style that questions the meaning of addiction, loneliness and desire. It's shot with what appears to be a psychedelic filter, creating eye-popping purples, teals and sickly yellows that create a shocking view.

Ten 'til Noon

In 10 minutes, anything can happen. After a long flight, Larry Taylor wakes up to two strangers in his bedroom. This isn't a mundane robbery in the suburbs, but we won't know the truth about their presence until we've heard the whole story. By noon, Larry Taylor's world will be turned on end, In this fast-paced thriller seen through the eyes of 10 characters, 10 lives, the truth will be revealed 10 minutes at a time.

Strigoi

Faye Jackson's debut is a fresh take on the vampire film. A darkly comical film, Strigoi is no bubblegum horror flick. Vlad, a young man investigating a murder in his grandfather's village, is searching for the land-owning couple to settle a property dispute. When he finds them, he discovers that the Strigoi, from an old Romanian fable, is more than just a fairy tale: "Some people are born Strigoi ... and some people become Strigoi ... after death." Vlad must kill the menace before the monsters chow down on everyone in the village.

Sapsucker

Christopher Holmes shot Sapsucker, an ultra-low-budget, 12-minute film on a $300 budget and sheer guts. He managed the cinematography, recording, writing and landscaping, all while spewing out the off-screen dialogue necessary for the sole actor, Phillip Ward, to react to. Such a feat should be commendable in and of itself, but the film wows with a seamless blend of stock footage taken from Cornell University's ornithology lab, then paired with action footage of an irate mountain man hell-bent on murdering the winged creatures. The film has been described as "engaging," "weird" and "a classic tale." Perhaps this is Holme's retribution against Hitchcock's The Birds.

Drawing with Chalk

Drawing Chalk Pictures presents this poignant tale of taking risks, and second chances. Jay, an honest family man, never got to live out his dream of becoming a successful musician. Instead, he married an Indian woman from a traditional family, and had a son named Bryan. Now in his 40s, the aging construction worker tries one last time to make it big with his music. But it's never smooth sailing when you have financial obligations, adult responsibilities and, maybe, an unsupportive family.

The Swim Team

Elizabeth, Kelda, and Jack Jack have lived in Belvedere all their lives. The three have grown old, their hair gone white, and none of them ever learned to swim. When Mona moves to their small town, she meets the trio and overhears the fact that they've never swum a day in their lives. Mona takes it upon herself to teach them, even though Belvedere has no bodies of water in which to learn. Instead, she sets up three bowls of water, and together, the four of them learn to swim within the oceans of their minds, proving that imagination is a powerful tool indeed. Based on the book by Miranda July, and directed by Boise native Amber Crosby, The Swim Team will prove that "sometimes it's the things we've forgotten that haven't forgotten us."

Official Rejection

Think making a film is easy? Think again. "The biggest misconception that filmmakers have when going to film festivals is they're gonna go there, they're gonna show their movie, someone's gonna buy it, they're gonna have a million dollars, and they're gonna have a big career! And it's not that," says a fellow filmmaker in Paul Osborne's new documentary. Once the cameras stop rolling, independent filmmakers become lobbyists—hassling, cajoling and sometimes even bribing film festival organizers. A host of filmmakers, including Kevin Smith, come together shed light on the soft white underbelly of the film festival circuit. Take a look at the backstabbing, bitching and bullshit that it takes to make it. Written and directed by Osborne, Official Rejection goes behind the scenes to the rarely seen world of non-Hollywood productions.

Thursday, Sept. 24-Sunday, Sept. 27. Find the full schedule of films, parties and seminars at idahofilmfestival.com.

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