Adventure Unlimited at the Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour
Rob Howard / 08.03.2019
Outdoor and adventure films seem to get better and better every year. New technologies mean no expedition is now too difficult to follow, and this allows more creativity from the film makers and the adventurers, who often film themselves.
It's a golden age for outdoor film, which is why the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour is always on my calendar, because it pulls together a selection of films that are always enlightening and inspiring.
The Banff Festival is a 9 day gathering of writers, photographers and film makers where hundreds of films are shown, and seen by an audience of 20,000, so the film tour selection is the best of the best. It's now shown on 7 continents, 45 countries, and to 550,000 viewers, and the UK & Ireland tour is currently celebrating its tenth year.
There is plenty of variety, so much so there are two tour programmes and the one I went to at Leicester's DeMontfort Hall was the 'Red Programme' which covered skiing, running, climbing and cycling.
The programme started with a comic turn from puppet mountaineers Marcel and Andrezj who were having some 'relationship issues' as they climbed the highest peak in 'Viacruxis'. A fun take on climbing egos it got the night off to a good start and was followed by another short film, but a very different one.
'Ascend' is a 6 minute film about Jon Wilson who lost a leg to cancer, but still rides tough mountain bike ascents. Once you got past 'how is that possible' it was the commentary on his motivation and the part riding plays in his life that held your attention.
The other short film of the night was 'Far Out; Kai Jones' and that too had an unbelievable wow factor as we watched 11 year old Kai ski breathtaking and really scary free routes in the mountains around Jackson Hole. As he put it, "I wonder how far I can push it before my mom gets scared?"
The other films were longer features and the stand out for me was 'This Mountain Life' following Martina and her 60 year old mum Tania as they took on a 6 month, 2300km traverse of the Coast Range in Canada. It wasn't an easy year for their trip, being the coldest in 20 years with temperatures of -20C and below for weeks on end.
The pair were met by film maker Grant Baldwin at key points along the route, and he used a variety of cinematic film techniques to capture the grandeur of the landscape, their spiritual connection to the mountains, and the development of the mother and daughter relationship.
'How to Run 100 Miles' is, on the surface at least, a more straightforward approach to endurance as it follows Jayson Sime and his friend Brendan Leonard take on the 100 mile ultra Run Rabbit Run in Colorado. Neither of the pair were runners, and Brendan said (more than once) he didn't even like running, but he wanted to support his friend and the film is about their determination to finish, and to do it for each other.
"The act of running sucks, it's true, but I've always wanted to tell Jayson's story because he has fought through so much adversity in his life with relentless positivity." Said Leonard. "Doing a race like this seemed like a perfect way to do it."
The show wrapped up with 'Ice & Palms' an Alpine epic which was self filmed by German ski-mountaineers Max and Jochen. Their 5 week bikepacking trip included many of the most iconic mountain ascents and ski descents in the Alps, with 35,000 feet of climbing and the crossing of several closed passes, carrying their bikes and packs through the deep snow.
Given the scale of their trip, and the simple way they approached it, it's amazing how they carried all their filming equipment on top of everything else (ski's, winter climbing gear, camping gear, food etc.), and managed the filming along the way.
At the end of the night the audience left, wowed, amazed, ready to get out on their own adventures ... and wondering where they could get tickets for to see 6 completely different films in the 'Blue Programme'!
The Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour for the UK and Ireland is on now and runs nationwide until the end of May. Details are at www.banff-uk.com and you can find out about the tour in other countries at https://www.banffcentre.ca/banffmountainfestival/tour