From the film Cold.
True inspiration comes in many forms. For me, it is making the annual pilgrimage to Kingsbury Hall to see the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The University of Utah has hosted the three-night event for the past 21 years, but the original festival has been held in Banff, Alberta, Canada since 1976. Created by an intrepid group of mountaineers in the hills of Canada, Banff showcases the film, photo and writing talents of hundreds of dedicated outdoor lovers from around the globe. This year’s selection of films was handpicked for their stunning cinematography and intricate stories. The opening night featured six films of varying lengths and each one had a unique premise.
All.I.Can: Although the editors cut the film down to only ten minutes for the festival, it was truly captivating. Stellar time lapses and creative transition sequences make this one of the most enjoyable ski movies I have ever seen. The edit focused on two wonderful segments that highlighted everything from shredding powder to slaying urban. JP Auclair, Eric Hjorleifson and Dana Flahr absolutely crush it in this film and perform at the top tier of their sport.
On The Trail of Genghis Kahn -The Last Frontier: In this feature-length film, explorer Tim Cope sets out on the journey of a lifetime. His goal is to cross the better part of Eurasia from Mongolia to Hungary. Equipped with a few articles of clothing, a stove and a few cameras, Cope spends the next three-and-a-half years traveling across the steppe. Accompanied by three horses and his canine companion, Tigan, Cope follows in the footsteps of the nomadic warrior Genghis Kahn. His travels bring him into the heart of the wilds and he finds friendship and admiration amongst the cultures he encounters. For over 10,000 kilometers, Cope and his animal sidekicks experience myriad setbacks and overcome challenges from weather, terrain, unruly locals and raging vodka hangovers.
Sketchy Andy: In this short documentary, we learn about the life of slack-liner Andy Lewis. Slack lining is a sport pioneered by climbers as a way to pass time. It is essentially a taut piece of thick webbing strung between two points, and the participant attempts to balance as he walks across it. Well, Lewis was not content with the typical methodology and put his own spin on it. Back flips and handstands make up Lewis’ repertoire and he prefers to do them hundreds of feet off the ground. You may have seen him at the Super Bowl half-time show performing his wild feats with Madonna. In the film, Lewis and his gang of dirt bags show you just how crazy they are by free soloing (without a safety line) across hundred foot expanses thousands of feet in the air; truly insane, but very entertaining.
Chasing Water: This film by legendary photographer Peter McBride won best short mountain film at this year’s festival. It highlights the plight of the Colorado River on its journey through the American southwest. From source to sea, McBride follows the course of the most over-taxed resource in the country. He attempts to portray the changing face of the river and captures marvelous images from both the water and the air. Towards the end of the film, McBride finds himself in the once-lush delta of the river, which is now the garbage disposal of the Colorado. Mired in muck and trash, he makes his way to the dry riverbed and follows the trail to the Sea of Cortez. It is sad to see how the degradation of the river has turned this glorious waterway into an overused and under appreciated plumbing system.
Towers of Ennedi: The deserts of Chad hold epic climbing opportunities for those willing to make the treacherous journey across Africa. Veteran climber Mark Synnott and young guns Alex Honnold and James Pearson, travel through the harsh desert in search of the holy grail of rock climbing. The sandstone towers they discover are incredibly beautiful and present endless opportunities for first ascents in this far-gone corner of the world.
Cold: The mountains of Pakistan are home to some of the most formidable peaks known to man. Now add temperatures dipping into the -51 degree range, throw in some hurricane force wind and extreme avalanche hazard and you have this film’s plot all lined out. American alpinist Cory Richards takes you there on his winter ascent of 8,000 meter (26,000 ft) Gasherbaum II. As Richards and his team bare the brunt of Mother Nature’s fury, they find humor and friendship amongst their small crew. The utter suffering portrayed in the movie makes you shiver and it is amazing to see what humans can endure when they put their minds to it. Atop the great mountain, Richards becomes the first American to summit an 8,000 meter peak in winter.
To see the most adrenaline-pumping highlights of the festival, check out the Radical Reels Tour coming through the University of Utah on March 1. Call 801-581-7100 for tickets. The full Banff Festival happens in Alberta this year Oct. 27-Nov. 4. For more info on the festival, visit banffcentre.ca/mountainfestival.