Banff. When first heard about its mountain film festival, I had no idea where that was. If it hadn’t been for the winter Olympics a bunch of years back, I wouldn’t know much about Calgary either, but that’s just me being American. Truthfully, it sounded like someplace in Scandinavia. It sounded like someplace COLD.
It is. Banff sits in the Canadian Rockies, inside a national park, if you can believe that! So you might expect a certain kind of beauty. Very unlikely you’ll be prepared for this. Majestic is the word that kept popping up. And I know it’s a corny word, but it’s all I had to describe those peaks, towering right above us. Every direction you look. If I was younger and hipper, I might just call them insane. Or sick, especially if I were dropping into some near vertical couloir of powder – easy to imagine. Even now, with the trees just sporting their first dusting of snow.
On the weekend I arrive, my host is breaking out her ice axes for some waterfalls that had finally frozen over – in October mind you! – on a river she and her boyfriend kayaked only weeks earlier. Beneath a mountain they climb in summer and will ski a few weeks later. You get the idea. New season? Just adjust your gear. There’s always something to keep you exploring!
So it’s pretty easy to see how a mountain film festival takes root in this community. The 38th annual fest, so they’ve been at it awhile. In fact, together with ‘Mountain Film’ in Telluride, these two make up the grand-daddies of adventure film festivals which, if you’ve never been to one, is well worth the trek to get there. “Really?” you ask. Yes, really. Here’s why… Continue reading Banff Mountain Festival Preview→
MountainFilm. Believe it or not, the best film festival you’ll probably ever go to takes place in the small Colorado town of Telluride each May. Memorial Day weekend (May 24-17 this year). I can say “best” because after 20 years in the film industry, I am a festival snob. Checking my t-shirt collection, it appears I’ve been a Sundance veteran since 1996. For other comparisons, throw in New York, Tribeca, Chicago, SXSW, plus one in France I won’t mention because no one really goes there to see movies.
But they DO make the trek to southwest Colorado every year, especially outdoor enthusiasts, who know how stunning this place is. Considering how remote the town is, just getting here is a testimony that things must be worth it. They are.
When festival director David Holbrooke tells me that their guiding vision is to put on screen the “indomitable human spirit,” he isn’t kidding. The festival – born from the efforts of a few local mountain climbers back in 1979 – has grown up to showcase the mountains we are all climbing, as we fumble through life.
Fact is, there was scarcely a single film that didn’t put a lump in my throat – and I can be as jaded as they come. But when you bear witness to that kind of personal bravery. To a young ski jumper watching her Olympic dreams sail past, or a Chinese artist with the stones to (literally) flip off a regime who has executed people for less. When you witness the unbowed perseverance of a climber coming back from a broken neck to join his mates on an unthinkable mountain (yes, you Renan Ozturk!) or the resurrection of an entire society (in Lucy Walker’s haunting Tsunami & the Cherry Blossom) – you begin to get the sense of something we rarely celebrate these days. Triumph. Triumph without complaint. Triumph without shirking. Triumph even without crossing the finish line because it is always the inner conquest that matters.
Guys, if these films don’t get you out of your seats, send me your ticket stubs for a refund. Seriously. I’ll have nothing more to say. They are quite literally visions of the best humanity has to offer. They are blueprints for living a courageous life.
Outside the theaters, you’ll find panels and “coffee talks” (at an alarmingly early hour) but no matter. It’s worth getting out of bed to stand in the company of this deeply curious, engaged bunch. It’s the thing I’ll remember most about MountainFilm. You can walk anywhere and find yourself in an awesome conversation, with someone who has done something truly amazing, and wants to know… “so what are you up to?” Talk about raising the bar!
Kudos to David Holbrooke and program director Emily Long for curating such an outstanding collection of films. And to (exec director) Peter Kenworthy and an amazing staff for laying out such a big welcome mat. It is worth the trek. If you are even thinking about it, GO. There’s no better way to spend 4 days. Go to festival website.
Xpedition.TV isn’t coming to MountainFilm empty handed. We have BIG plans to launch our first two Challenge Awards at the festival. Opportunities for you to get creative, be discovered, and find your way onto Xpedition.TV!
Details soon! See everybody in Telluride!