IDAHO BABE, 8min,. USA, Documentary
Directed by Arlie Sommer
Idaho Babe is a short, poetic, documentary about the Idaho Buckaroo legend, Babe Hanson. Using collage animation, archival photos, and contemporary video of oral history interviews with and about Harriet “Babe” Drake Hanson, a queer woman who ran the Sawtooth Lodge and the beginning of the 20th century.
Idaho Babe is a short, poetic, documentary about the buckaroo legend, Babe Hanson. Using collage animation, lighted archival photos, and oral history video interviews with and about Harriet “Babe” Drake Hanson, a queer woman who ran the Sawtooth Lodge at the beginning of the 20th century.
In Idaho Babe, I dive into a favorite pastime: listening to the tall-tales of my grandmother’s childhood in the wilderness of Idaho. Ava Lee Darnielle Lutteman led an unconventional life, fishing, hunting and exploring in the Boise National Forest. Her mother operated a general store in Gardena Idaho, outfitting lodges on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and at Deadwood Reservoir. Her stepfather was a backcountry pilot and Ava was raised to be independent and fearless, riding a horse to her one-room schoolhouse, spitting tobacco and fighting on the playground, and living on the packstring trail, farmed out as a gopher to her mother’s packer women friends. I listened to her stories growing up and they molded me into an independent, adventure seeking character myself.
Some of my favorite stories from Ava are about Babe Hanson. Dubbed the Annie Oakley of Idaho, Babe was a sharp shooter and outdoor adventurer. Babe ran a packstring and was an outfitter and guide in the Boise National Forest and the Sawtooths. With her brother and husbands (She married twice), she built and ran the Sawtooth Lodge, in Grandjean, ID. Later, she operated the lodge solo. Babe was unconventional and a top cowboy, whose story should be known by anyone interested in western frontier culture.
Included in the film are digital photos, of lighted prints, of screenshots, of a digital copy of a vhs tape, of a print, of film taken on a camera in the 1940s. I created paper cut out and digital stop animation using historic photos by wilderness photographers Robert Limbert, Ted Trueblood, Everett L. “Shorty” Fuller and others, courtesy of the Idaho State Archives, the Boise State Archives, and the Latah County Historical Society.
My research for this film also took me to Horseshoebend, where I and my Grandma Ava were graciously shown around by Deb Marks from Horseshoe Bend Historical Society. I also visited the pioneer cemetery in Brownly Idaho and the site of my grandmother's family general store in Gardena, Idaho.
The film features a historic recording of “Put Your Little Foot” by old time fiddler Mary Trotchie of Havare, MT, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
I grew up listening to stories of Babe from my grandma and have always thought that more people should know about this iconic Idaho figure, so different from American history stereotypes yet so heroic and well-loved.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
It took me a little over a year to make this film. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, interviewing her and driving her to places from her childhood. I also spent a lot of time visiting historic archives to find photos and footage for the film. The photo treatments, animations, and editing were a long and tedious process. I really learned a lot from making each part.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I love my grandma a little too much to cut her stories down—it was hard not to leave everything in the film but I also wanted to leave viewers asking for more rather than waiting for the end.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Tears! It's so very rewarding to hear feedback from an audience. I'm floored by their generosity and kindness. It takes energy to consume media, especially experimental works like Idaho Babe. I'm so grateful to these thoughtful people for their input and I will hold it close to my heart.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Before making a film, I had made many photo and audio documentaries so I had half of the equation. I've always loved film but have been intimidated by the multitude of skills required to make good one, so it took me a while to finally make my first in 2020.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Princess Bride was on at my house constantly growing up—it's a classic! I don't think I could handle watching another film as much as I've seen that one. I also rented Milo and Otis every chance I could from Adventure Land, the local video rental shop in my tiny home town, Middleton, ID.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I'm so impressed by the efforts made by this festival! Wonder if I might find a mentor through your network who would be willing to meet on zoom a few times. Mentors have made a huge impact on me in my career. Their advice and advocacy are everything.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
As a first-time, extremely independent filmmaker, it gets pretty expensive putting your film out into the world. I wish there were more opportunities for low-budget filmmakers.
10. What is your favorite meal?
I grew up on a farm so I have to stick to my roots: a big salad and herby, grilled lambchops. My parents farm both for our local farmers market.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I'm working on a film about the children of the migrant labor community in Idaho, mostly from Mexico, who are connecting to their roots by growing and processing milpa (corn) so they can make traditional Mexican food like tortillas and tamales.