Banff Mountain Film Festival

I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival on the weekend. It was a free ticket (from climbing friend).

As I was leaving the house, I thought “do I wear my nice coat or my snowboarding coat?”. I went with my snowboarding coat – and I was glad, that was the right choice. When I arrived, it was a sea of Rab with the odd fleck of Berghaus. Were these people sponsored to be here?? There were all sorts there – strangely mostly middle-aged – guys in flip flops, girls who haven’t brushed their hair, all friendly.

I’ve never been before, but my friend has been trying to get me to go for years. This year, they have two sets of films – red and blue. We were there for the blue films. The run down was:

  1. Ace and the Desert Dog
  2. Where the Wild Things Play
  3. Johanna
  4. Pedal
  5. Dugout
  6. Why
  7. *intermission*
  8. 2.5 Million
  9. Safety Third
  10. Surf the Line

(that running schedule is from memory, I may have a few the wrong way around)

There were two films I LOVED, one I liked and the rest I was left a bit confused or agitated by.

Before it started, I was pretty chuffed that I had a clear view of the screen (I’m not very tall). Then my friend came to take his seat and I had to scooch over one – so much for visibility. I now had an intimate view of a guy’s head, I think I could draw it from memory for you now. Let’s not and say we did, huh?

Anyway, the first film “Ace and the Desert Dog” was this guy who had been a photographer for years, and decided to hike around Utah’s canyon country (AKA his backyard) for 60 days, with his dog – all to celebrate his 60th birthday. There were light snippets on screen written from the dog’s point of view and a little too much face licking for my liking. To clarify, the dog was licking the man’s face. But I wonder what else the dog had licked in his down time (ha).

Next came “Where the Wild Things Play”. A few short minutes showing a bunch of girls doing CRAZY things while there fellas are shown drinking in a bar, wondering where their ladies are and complaining the conditions aren’t quite right for them to bike ride, climb, etc. Perfect tune for the film, “Short Skirt Long Jacket” by Cake. I might add that to my running playlist… The film was good, very watchable and inspiring.

“Johanna” is frickin’ mental. She’s a Finnish freediver who had been injured and so had to do cold submersion therapy for some unholy reason, and she got to like it. Now she goes out to frozen lakes with her saw, cuts a triangular hole and jumps in, to freedive. I’ll pass on that. Or ever watching it again, no thanks.

Hera van Willick is the star of “Pedal”. At first I was pretty engaged, she just cycles. All over the world, living out of her paniers. Then she started talking about how her bike was her boyfriend and she was in love with him (not it). I got lost in all sorts of wrongness there. Then I was wondering how she makes money – is it sponsorship? Does she work along the way? Or does she steal? Go her, for choosing that life – but what happens if she gets injured? Or attacked? Or old? It asked more questions than it answered for me. Sorry for not getting it.

“Dugout” had me worried. Two guys from the south of England (well known for their ruggedness – hmm). One who clearly thought he was funny – I was worried he wasn’t. Happily, my skepticism was misplaced – I LOVED this film! The guys were charming, real and occasionally naked except for wellies (W-E-L-L-I-E-S). The film tracked them staying with a family in Ecuador, picking the right tree to make a canoe from, building it, burning bread, finding giant spiders in their shoes, and floating off through the Amazon before eventually selling their canoe and heading home. It was great, the guys were great, the family they stayed with (and didn’t want to leave) were great.

“Why” was lost on me. Not because I don’t think kayaks are thrilling, but because it was in French and I couldn’t see the subtitles because of the head in front of me. 7 minutes of film and I don’t really have any clue what happened.

Aaron Rice is a self-confessed ski bum. He decided to climb 2.5 million vertical feet – all human powered – and ski some amazing runs, all in one calendar year. The previous record was 2 million. I must say, I wasn’t overwhelmed by his preparation. I’m also not convinced he wasn’t a little odd, but I guess you have to be to do these crazy things. What he achieved, was amazing. I don’t think he can claim to be a ski bum anymore – he’s proven more motivation, commitment and sheer stubbornness than most people display in a lifetime. Well done Aaron, but I didn’t warm to you. I’m sure you won’t mind.

“Safety Third” was about climbing. So, I paid attention and felt VERY new. Brad Gobright is crazy and awesome. I am amazed he isn’t dead. I hope he is indestructible. He was more than a little dysfunctional, but he was living his dream, and he doesn’t give a sh*t if it’s your dream or not! Some of the shots of him climbing and what he was somehow holding on to were more than breathtaking. He was amazing. I’m sure he still is. When the film finished, my pulse rate was up and my hands were more than a little sweaty. I was terrified for him. I wouldn’t say I was inspired – I don’t think it would be normal to think “yeah, let’s go do a crazy solo climb (no ropes) up some sheer rock faces in Colorado”, but I was in awe.

Last film, “Surf the Line” was about some crazy French acrobats that basically ride a surfboard across a tightrope and jump off of it with parachutes, all while wearing crazy outfits and screaming and hugging a lot. It was okay, if you like that sort of thing.

It was a good evening, I’m glad I went. I may be a little bit in love with the two British guys. Oh well, it’ll wear off! I’m looking forward to the Ocean Film Festival later in the year…


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