Idaho native Jaffe Zinn has done all right for himself with his debut feature, Magic Valley. The film screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and is set to be released overseas. The Hollywood Reporter called it "an exquisitely shot portrait of one troubling day-in-the-life of a small Idaho town."
Though the film has yet to be released domestically, Zinn, who is in town to start production on his next feature, screened the film July 2 at Red Room and then took part in a Q&A.
"You always hear that filmmakers' first features are autobiographical, and this was definitely based around my experiences growing up," Zinn said.
However, it was clear that he meant the scenery and characters depicted, not the part about small children finding a body, which makes up a large portion of the plot. Much of the film takes place on a fish farm
"My dad was a fish farmer and I raised fish to get money to go to college," he said. "This was a world I was very familiar with."
Though even Zinn described the plot as "really slow," Magic Valley was every bit as bleakly entrancing as its rep, finding visual poetry in abandoned pieces of farm equipment and a fish farm like the one Zinn grew up on. That was something Zinn attributed to the film's director of photography, Sean Kirby. Zinn wanted to hire Kirby after seeing his work on the film Zoo, a bizarrely compelling and visually stunning documentary about beastiality.
But most of the questions asked focused on two topics: the logistics surrounding the dead fish in the film and the cast, which the audience alternately recognized from around Boise and other feature films.
Zinn told the audience his next film will be different.
"It' very psychological," he said. "It's not an ensemble piece as much; it focuses on two young women on the road doing ... bad stuff."