Twelve sumptuous films about mountains, snow, skiing and other adventures come to Whitehorse this weekend in the form of the Banff Mountain Film Festival – the top films chosen from the original 60 shown over nine days in Banff last fall.
The thread that ties these films together is the personal stories that lead people on their eclectic journeys.
Whether the task is to undertake a year-long walk across Asia or to ski as fast as possible down the highest walls in the world, the festival takes us into the slightly obsessive minds that set out to do sometimes great and sometimes nutty things.
This year’s lineup, shown over two nights, mixes high-adrenaline adventure with memoir and cultural documentary.
Thursday night will feature five mid-length films with a bit of snow, a bit of white water, and a bit of social justice. The lineup includes the winner of the Best Film on Climbing prize, The Asgard Project, which documents an ambitious attempt of the first free climb of Mount Asgard in Baffin Island.
Another adrenaline-inducing film will be Eastern Rises, the winner of the Mountain Sport film category. The camera follows a professional fly fisher as he goes off the grid on the wild landscape of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia.
Visually stunning, the documentary takes in Sasquatch sightings, mouse-eating trout, and an epic struggle with copious amounts of Russian vodka.
One of the festival headliners at Banff was Stones into Schools. This story is not about hunger for adventure, but about one failed climber’s passion for the people who live in the isolated mountain communities of Afghanistan.
Stones into Schools is a look at Greg Mortenson’s work to build schools in remote areas of war-torn Afghanistan. The book by the same name has been a bestseller, along with the first book by the renowned climber turned humanitarian, Three Cups of Tea.
Other highlights will take the audience on a creative and stunning journey to places most of us will never go.
Friday night brings The Longest Way, an entertaining time-lapse of a one-year-walk across China from Beijing to Urumqi, a distance of over 3,000 kilometres.
Into Darkness follows a group of cave explorers into the moist and secret world of caves. The cavers keep you in awe as they worm through impossibly small passages to bring spectacular and fantastical images of the underworld.
And the visually rich film Life Cycles is a love song to the bicycle and the joy of riding. Its spectacular mountain imagery just might bring tears to the eyes of riders.
Not all the films can be described here, but Last Paradise may be the one most likely to make you reconsider how you spend your leisure time.
This amalgam of adventure, memoir and environmentalism follows a group of adventure-junkie friends who are keen on playing hard.
The film uses original footage shot over 45 years to document the evolution of extreme sports, from the group’s early days in the wilderness of New Zealand, to the bleeding edge of extreme sports today.
Not only were these friends pioneers in snowboarding and extreme skiing, they also found innovative ways of capturing their antics on film that allow the viewer to ride along with them.
The original footage is both creative and compelling, and is a testament to the environmental changes the world has experienced over the past four decades.
The fact that Stones Into Schools headlined the Banff Mountain Film Festival last October/November is a good example of how the festival’s identity has evolved since it began 35 years ago.
One slight detraction is that the festival has become heavily sponsored and the advertising can be wearisome at times.
On the other hand, good stories and engaging characters remain strongly present.
The festival runs at the Yukon Arts Centre at 7:30pm on Thursday and Friday nights.