Banff Mountain Film Festival

This past Thursday, April 12th, 2012 was the evening chosen for, hands down, my favorite event of the year. Started in Banff, Canada, one of the most pristine (and most visited) landscapes in the world, home of Canada’s oldest national park, is a film festival. However, this is not your ordinary film festival. Combine Banff National Park, National Geographic, and the North Face along with film makers and the most extreme non-traditional athletes of the world, and you have the most stunning visuals and unpredictable action you have ever seen or experienced. It is truly an experience.

Located in Alberta, Canada, the Banff Centre receives approximately 300 film applicants per year. Top films are chosen, and shown to approximately 75,000 audience members at the Centre. Then the film festival goes on a World Tour, in 30 + countries, reaching 280,000 people. Michigan State University Outdoors Club sponsored a viewing on campus, for a 3 hour showing. MSU chose the films, with each film length varying, some up to 45 minutes long, but most approximately 15. Last year one clip was only a few minutes.

The films are breathtaking, and the action has you at the edge of your seat. The trailer (which I watched about 4 times prior to the show) is here: It includes a few ads, but I feel they do an excellent job of incorporating the incredible natural footage we want to see and then the ad or the plug to the company and gear.

The films cannot be watched on Itunes or Youtube although you can get clips and trailers. Most can be purchased, from the links below, which is of course encouraged as I can’t imagine the costs and effort it takes to produce these films. Most links though have a free trailer! The selections of this year included:

  1. All.I.Can: The Short Cut

Stunning time-lapse sequences, creative visuals, great skiers, and deep powder are highlights of this excerpt from the award-winning feature film that looks at snow sports and the environment. I have been thinking of buying this one. It was my favorite of the selections this year.

  1. C.A.R.C.A

(C.A.R.C.A = Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association) One man’s quest to revolutionize the world of animal avalanche rescue. A quirky, dorky film, but still very funny. They even have their own facebook page.

  1. The Freedom Chair

Josh Dueck was an aspiring skier and coach until a ski accident in 2004 changed his life forever. Despite his comeback and success in the world of competitive sit-skiing, he wasn’t content. Josh’s dream is to tackle the backcountry and the steepest and wildest mountains in the world — and with his infectious outlook, he may just catch his dream.

  1. Kadoma

“Kadoma” is the nickname for Hendri Coetzee, a legendary South African kayaker who is known for exploring some of Africa’s wildest rivers. In December 2010, American pro kayakers Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesbury followed Coetzee into the Democratic Republic of Congo for a first descent of the dangerous Lukuga River. Seven weeks into the expedition, tragedy struck.

  1. On Assignment: Jimmy Chin

A brief portrait of a passionate athlete who has melded climbing and photography. Jimmy Chin believes that “the most honest photos happen when both the subject and the photographer are just in the moment, and the rest of the world has just fallen away.”

  1. Reel Rock: Ice Revolution

A revolution is taking place, led by Canadian maniac Will Gadd. After 30 years of ice climbing, Gadd has finally realized his dream of climbing radically overhanging, heinously difficult ice at British Columbia’s spectacular Helmcken Falls. Gadd and Tim Emmett dodge exploding icicle bombs and send the hardest pure ice climb in the world.

  1. Reel Rock: Sketchy Andy

American climbing dirtbag Andy Lewis is taking the discipline of slacklining into the future as he solos the world’s longest high-lines and masters the hardest aerial tricks, while pushing his equipment to the limit. As Andy goes higher, harder, and faster with climbing, slack, and B.A.S.E., we all wonder how far he can go before it’ll be one step over the line.

  1. Seasons: Winter

Brian Ward discovers an unexpected and new-found love for water, in its frozen and expanded form.

  1. Ski Bums Never Die

What does it take to be a ski bum? An unending dedication to powder skiing? The ability to do anything in your ski boots? A lifelong quest for deep snow? This unusual and inspiring band of skiers in the Kootenay region of British Columbia explains.

  1. Towers of the Ennedi

The Ennedi Desert of Chad is a hot, sand-scoured, and unfriendly place. But from its vast belly rise clusters of breathtakingly lovely spires, towers, and rock formations. Veteran climber Mark Synnott, known more for his far-flung adventures than his technical accomplishments, brings young climbing stars Alex Honnold and James Pearson to the Ennedi to explore its untouched landscapes. Two years ago we were introduced to the young free climber Alex Honnold. He claimed to be one of the boldest climbers and we laugh as Alex climbs five routes as his friend, also a very talented climber, summits one difficult tower.

I am always astounded by the lifestyle choices made by the makers of the films, living within alligator and hippo infested waters, out of vans, and at the national parks. Mostly I am jealous, and as one youtube trailer commenter put it, “Wow, my life sucks”. Then I realize that it is all about the choices we make, and how we decide personally to make the world a better place. By inspiration, living a free lifestyle, defining yourself as limitless, invincible, living like this IS your last day on earth, or simply being excited by living. Live by being grateful, living in the moment and actively engaged in even the smallest daily tasks and chores.

But, always, I leave this festival thinking how can I do my best to protect such wild, incredible places? My short answer: inform yourself and go see the best possible films of the year!