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Inspiration At The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Rob Howard / 04.03.2020

Meeting in the middle, slackliners from Mexico and the USA
Meeting in the middle, slackliners from Mexico and the USA / © The Imaginary Line

The Banff mountain film festival world tour is currently on show around the world with a programme that’s always an inspirational a thought provoking night out and great entertainment. It’s a huge success worldwide with 11,000 screenings around the world on 7 continents and a global audience of 550,000.

In the UK and Ireland alone there are 114 shows, with two different film programmes on offer and the one I saw this year was the red programme which played to a full house at DeMontfort Hall in Leicester.

As always it was a mix of sports and destinations with great personalities and some amazing filming on offer and with plenty of laughs too.

Self proclaimed old-fashioned trad climber Zach Barr from Reel Rock got lots of laughs as he investigated the world of speed climbing ahead of its inclusion in the next Olympics (if it happens). For speed climbing to move from an obscure branch of the sport and take on the Olympic spotlight and profile is something which may shake up climbing and was an eye-opener for Barr.  Who knew competitive speed climbers all use the same route, every time, and have done since 2007? Not me.  

‘The Imaginary Line’ was a film with a message and followed two groups of slackline enthusiasts, from the USA and Mexico, who took advantage of the US Government shutdown to establish a line across a canyon between their two countries.  Risking severe consequences if caught they jointly set up and walked the line between their two countries, breaking the invisible barrier separating them.

Film maker Kylor Melton said.  “In a world that is constantly trying to tear us apart, we are here to come together, to cross those imaginary lines that divide us...”

“Our greatest hope for this film is that we create something that goes far beyond ourselves … Using this highline as a medium for sparking a conversation and creating a positive shift in our world.”

It’s on Youtube if you want to watch it.

Finding her own line down the rivers of Ladakh was French paddler Nouria Newman as she undertook a solo 375km paddling expedition which pushed her to her limits. On the trip down the Tsarap, Zanskar and Indus rivers she says she, "cried, laughed and talked to myself like a crazy person."  She admitted too that she may have pushed things too far and the self filmed footage of her ‘big mistake’ on day 2 is heartstopping.

“I should have spent more time getting used to the altitude, I should have been more focused, I should have had a drysuit, I should have scouted... Many small mistakes which led me to a very big one.

Luckily I was able to swim out, retrieve all my gear, and continue my journey downstream. Not because I was courageous, I was terrified. But because I had no other options. All I wanted was to get warmer, keep crying, get a hug ... but the only way out is downstream and I had to keep going.”

British adventurer Sarah Outen found herself in similar situation, at the mercy of the water and with no option but to hold on, during her remarkable four year solo human powered traverse of the globe. Travelling by bike she crossed the continents and rowed and paddled the oceans, on her own some of the time and with some company at others.  In 47 minutes of self-filmed footage the audience joined her on 20,000 mile odyssey on which she was twice at the mercy of hurricane force winds on her ocean rows, and eventually forced to abandon and return another time.  Her commentary adrift and alone in a tiny cockpit was perhaps the most memorable across all the films.

Inspiration and endurance of a different kind was shown in ‘Thanbang’ a film profile of Thabang Madiba, the first black South African to represent his country at trail running.  He grew up in the township of Ga-Runkuwa and through perseverance, passion and innate ability has won multiple national titles and is a hero in his community, and hopes to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

To round the evening off there was more humour in the form of the Danny MacAskill film ‘Danny Day Care’, featuring some amazing stunt riding with a bike buggy on tow, and co-starring his friend’s daughter, the delightful daisy.  As the programme said, “Don’t try this at home folks!”

None of the feats shown are within the reach of any but the most exceptional adventurer or athlete, but hopefully those who made their way home after the show were inspired to try some adventures or activities of their own after immersing themselves in another great Banff show.

You can find details of the UK and Ireland tour at https://www.banff-uk.com/, and for information on the tour in other countries at https://www.banffcentre.ca/banffmountainfestival/tour­

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