Benjamin Morgan, the man tasked with taking the Treefort Film Fest to the next level, thinks a lot about the sweet spot where avid film-goers intersect with music fest attendees.
"That's the huge quandary," Morgan said. "Treefort is a music festival first; film festival second... Hold it. Maybe we're not even second; maybe it's Hackfort or Yogafort."
Given the impressive lineup of the 2015 Treefort Film Fest and its avant-garde showcase—films will be screened in a soon-to-be-built outdoor theater near The Modern Hotel and Bar and in select screenings at The Flicks—Morgan has good reason for optimism.
"The game changer this year is Camp Modern," said Morgan. "The Flicks is the gold standard for film lovers in Boise, and we're putting some pretty great films there. But we're shutting down Grove Street in front of The Modern and erecting a giant tent with a first-rate projection and sound system."
Whatever you do, don't ask Morgan about traditional seating in the unconventional setting.
"The idea of putting folding chairs in there makes me gag," said Morgan. "We're going to have alternative seating: church pews, bean bag chairs."
Morgan is an accomplished filmmaker: his 2004 film Quality of Life was a big hit at the Berlin and Stockholm film festivals and can currently be seen on Netflix and Showtime. His next production, Mother's Milk, is set to film in Boise this summer. He also co-curates the Eastern Oregon Film Festival.
"But we wanted to re-think how films were presented at Treefort. Two years ago, I shadowed [Treefort co-founder] Eric Gilbert, which is a little like trying to get a hummingbird to land on your finger," said Morgan. "I pitched him an idea to put together a full film festival, but last year, we went a bit too far. Our initial plan was to do a weekend, but then we added a Sunday, and then a Wednesday and ended up with a five-day festival."
Gilbert agrees that was a mistake. The Flicks owner Carole Skinner told Morgan the 2014 plan was too ambitious and, as a result, attendance was underwhelming.
This year Gilbert decided to screen films at the Camp Modern tent from Wednesday, March 25 through the afternoon of Friday, March 27, then shift over to The Flicks from Friday evening through Sunday, March 29. In total, Treefort Film Fest will include 12 features, 12 shorts and a screening of a short-film bundle from Northwest filmmakers, Thursday, March 26 at 4 p.m. at Camp Modern.
Below are some Treefort Film Fest highlights:
'Secret Screening'—No, that's not the title. It's an actual secret. Due to its subject matter and contractual obligations, the film can't be promoted in advance. Morgan said it's a must-see and will shock more than a few attendees. (Thursday, March 26, 7 p.m., Camp Modern)
Tomorrow We Disappear—We have seen this amazing documentary three times and it gets better with each viewing. It's a beautiful story about artists forced to leave their homes when their government decides to bulldoze their community. This is the only film with two screenings. (Wednesday, March 25, 6 p.m., Camp Modern; Saturday, March 28, 7 p.m., The Flicks)
Buffalo Juggalos—This will be the most controversial film of the festival. The shocking documentary chronicles the violent, drug-filled lives of a group of Juggalos—the fanatical face-painted followers of Detroit-based hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse—living in Buffalo, N.Y. Though unrated, audiences should be aware the film contains hard R-rated material. (Thursday, March 26, 5:30 p.m., Camp Modern)
Lake Los Angeles—A powerful film about immigration that is neither pedantic nor agenda-driven. It features a breakthrough performance by Johanna Trujillo as a young girl smuggled into the United States from Mexico and befriended by a middle-aged Cuban man who becomes her unlikely surrogate father. (Saturday, March 28, 8 p.m., The Flicks)
"We have a very engaged, film-going audience in Boise," said Morgan. "Couple that with music lovers who will catch some of the films in between concerts and I think we've got something special."