Last week the Banff Mountain Film Festival published its list of alpine inspired movies scheduled to be screened late this month in Alberta. A whopping 71 titles will be shown over nine days at the Canadian Rockies’ Banff Center. With adventure filmmakers, authors, athletes and activists en route from around the world to attend, the 2011 festival promises to be an exciting event to kick off another great winter season.
Even a cursory review of the compiled list should raise a few goose bumps of anticipation. Though many of the films on the schedule have been in distribution for while, Banff offers a unique showcase for the absolute best the Adventure Media genre has to offer. And over the next several weeks leading up to, during and after the festival here you’ll find a comprehensive discussion on what truly makes for a great mountain movie.
Personally I’m more than a little overwhelmed by the vast array of films to choose from. So I put together a list with brief a description of each movie along with a link to its trailer or web site. I have a films I’m eager to see but what are you looking forward to? Is it just exciting cinematography and death-defying feats captured on film? Or do want an engaging narrative with compelling characters that convey a life-affirming message to inspire adventure?
At Banff you’ll find all that more. And here you can share your thoughts on what these films inspire in you. Which are your favorites? Which are you most eager to see? And which do you hope will make it to the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in 2012? Give me your ideas and recommendations on which are the must see mountain movies of the year! ~ JEM
(USA, 2011, 29’, Culture
Producer/Director: Allie Bombach
Hop onboard a 23-foot 1970 Airstream trailer and join three young women on their search for people who are living simply. They find out it’s not all that simple to step out of the mainstream and pursue your passion for the outdoors.
(Joy Trip Project review => http://joytripproject.org/2011/finding-happiness-in-23-feet/)
(Canada, 2011, 89’, Feature)
Producer/Director: Dianne Whelan
Editor: Janice Brown
Director of Photography: Andrew Coppin
Athlete: Meagan McGrath
This compelling feature-length documentary puts a knife through the heart of the Everest myth, with stories of climbers interwoven with daily life at base camp. The film provides a modern take on the transformation of Everest, from what was once a revered, sacred space to the mountain theme park it’s becoming, accessible to almost anyone.
(UK, 2010, 59’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Richard Else
As part of their preparation for BBC Scotland’s Great Climb, top rock athletes Dave MacLeod and Tim Emmett attempt to climb five new extreme routes on five Hebridean islands in five consecutive days – a world’s first.
(Canada, 2011, 75’, Feature)
Producer: Malcolm Sangster
Director: Dave Mossop
This cinemagraphic achievement takes riders around the world, contemplating whether skiing and boarding have a role to play in protecting the environment. The film strives to unite global mountain cultures, and encourages us to be the leaders of the revolution.
(UK, 2011, 60’, Culture)
Producer/Director: Nicolas Brown
The Arctic is the harshest environment on Earth – hardly any food grows, it’s dark for months, and temperatures stay well below freezing for much of the year. Yet four million people manage to survive – and flourish – here. With incredible access into the most intimate lives of charismatic Arctic residents, this film showcases their ingenious strategies to thrive.
(USA, 2011, 80’, Feature)
Producer/Director: Curtis Morgan
One of the year’s hottest snowboarding films witnesses new-age flight through some of the most stunning snowboard footage to date. With the finest Dolby sound, iconic snowboarder Travis Rice and a cast of riders invite you to experience first-hand their quest to redefine the realms of snowboarding possibility, chock-full of action and breathtaking stunts.
(USA, 2011, 9’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer: Alan Gordon
Director: Alan Gordon, Jordan Halland
Experience the sheer beauty of the glaciers of Southeast Alaska, before they disappear forever!
(New Zealand, 2010, 26’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Jared Meehan
It’s a legendary region with legendary whitewater. An international team of kayakers travels to Siberia to run some of the world’s biggest and most remote rapids on the Bashkaus River in Southern Siberia’s Altai Mountains.
(Canada, 2011, 3’, Culture)
Producer/Director: Steve Crowe
Boom is a brief and entertaining glimpse of the often heard, but rarely seen, work of an explosive avalanche control team.
Break The Summit
(Canada, 2011, 5’, Climbing)
Director: Kyler Kelly
A rope binds together a climber and a mountaineer as they ascend a treacherous peak. Their bond is strained as they climb or fall as one.
(Ireland, 2010, 59’, Wildlife)
Producer/Director: John Murray
One man, one animal, and a journey into the last days of the wild tiger. One of the world’s leading tiger cameramen travels through the mountains of India on a personal pilgrimage, piecing together the last journey of Broken Tail, a charismatic tiger cub. Filmed in the richest color and detail, he ventures to uncover the story of the last surviving tigers on Earth.
(UK, 2011, 43’, Adventure)
Producer: Elliot Forge
Director: Al Boardman
Eight women from Ghana, India, Singapore, Jamaica, New Zealand, Cyprus, the UK, and Brunei Darussalam, attempt to ski 900 kilometres to the South Pole. Some of them have never seen snow, or spent a night in a tent. This is a film about friendship and determination as well as the universal draw of one of the most extreme environments – Antarctica.
(Canada, 2011, 8’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Darren Rayner, Callum Jelley,
Mason Mashon shot and edited in only seven days, discover the true meaning of cat skiing!
(USA, 2011, 57 min) WORLD PREMIERE
Director: Ed George
Producer: Ed George, Paul Canny
This is a different kind of river trip. A group of 16 artists, photographers, musicians, and river guides row the Colorado River during the winter searching for beauty and inspiration. The quiet February light on the Grand Canyon, and the changing grace of the river, stir the silent walls and produce bursts of artistic creativity like this group has never experienced before.
(USA, 2011, 18’, Environment)
Producer: Anson Fogel
Director: Peter McBride
Pete McBride grew up on a ranch in Western Colorado, a child of the Colorado River. After a life spent visiting other countries to tell stories as a National Geographic photojournalist, in 2008 Pete decided to follow the water from his family’s ranch to see where it ends up. This is the story of Pete’s journey, and a story about the lifeblood of the American West.
(Joy Trip Project review =>http://joytripproject.org/2011/chasing-water/)
(USA, 2011, 19′, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Anson Fogel
Experience Gasherbrum II in the middle of a deep, dark winter, as seen from the raw, honest perspective of alpinist Cory Richards’ camera. This film deftly captures the interwoven roles of pain, fear, and doubt – and reveals a harrowing descent that amplifies their isolation and exposure.
(Germany, 2011, 6’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Danny Strasser “Bobtrack Downhill Skateboarding” is a sport that didn´t actually exist … until now!
(Sweden, 2010, 29’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Jonas Paulsson, Mikael Widerberg
Generations of climbers have had a crush on the crags of Sweden’s west coast, from the ’70s bandana-wearing climbers to the superstar athletes who are pushing the boundaries of trad climbing today.
(France, 2010, 52’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer: Sylvie Barbe, Jean-Marc Robert
Director: Thierry Robert
An intrepid crew of scientists and explorers takes the ultimate plunge – scuba-diving beneath the North Pole in temperatures so low that a special heating device is required in their diving suits. Over a two-month period, they overcome incredible obstacles to give us a rare kaleidoscopic glimpse of the ice from below, and the luminescent sea creatures they encounter.
Deklaracja Niesmiertelnosci (Declaration of Immortality)
(Poland, 2010, 29’, Climbing)
Producer: Ryszard Urbaniak Director: Marcin Koszalka
Something none of us can deny – growing older. But will we face it with the same poetic reasoning and stark beauty as this passionate climber?
(Spain, 2010, 5’, Climbing) N. AMERICA PREMIERE
Producer/Director: Jordi Canyigueral
Iker Pou is one of the world’s finest big wall climbers and mountaineers. He returns to his roots to tackle a 9a+ sport climbing route in Margalef, Spain.
(USA, 2011, 12’, Sport)
Director: Sam Giffin, Ryan Fenson-Hood
Can two of the world’s top freeskiers build a life together?
(Norway, 2011, 11’, Sport)
Producer: Daniel Bergstrom
Director: Fred A. Wergeland
These riders are hunting for that elusive moment in the mountains – perfect conditions, perfect line, and the perfect moment to drop in.
Explorer: Man vs. Volcano
(USA, 2011, 50’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer/Director: Tony Gerber
Science and adventure meet during a descent into the crater of the active Mt. Nyiragongo volcano, located next to one of the world’s most dangerous cities. A scientist aims to collect samples from the deadlylava lake, and a photographer aims to catch the moment on film.
(Canada, 2011, 15’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Mike Douglas
Athlete: Josh Dueck
Josh Dueck was an aspiring skier and coach until a ski accident in 2004 changed his life for good. 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. With his infectious outlook, he may just catch his dream.
(USA, 2011, 4’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer: Fitz Cahall
Director: Bryan Smith
Creating stunning, cutting-edge adventure films hasn’t gotten any easier. There’s still plenty of sweat and swearing. Filmmaker and adventurer Bryan Smith shows us how it’s done.
G Bear & B Bear
(Canada, 2011, 4’, Wildlife)
Producer: Ray Schmidt
Director: Otiena Ellwand
Wildlife outreach dudes take “Yo bear!” to the extreme in this hilarious rap video about grizzlies and black bears.
Grand Libre au Grand Cap
(France, 2011, 18’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Bertrand Delapierre
Join Arnaud Petit and Stéphanie Bodet as they attempt what might be the toughest route in the Alps, a majestic 3,900 metre pinnacle that juts from the Mont Blanc Massif – Grand Capucin. Close camera work and lively discussion along the route allow us intimate access to a refreshing and effective climbing partnership.
(USA, 2010, 74’, Feature)
Producer: Jeannine Richards
Director: Steve Dunsky
Associate Producer: Alana DeJoseph
Aldo Leopold is considered one of the most important conservationists of the 20th Century. His classic book A Sand County Almanac inspires us to see the natural world as a community. Green Fire explores Leopold’s personal journey of observation and understanding, and reveals how his ideas resonate today, with people from inner cities to the remotest wild lands.
(Australia, 2010, 8’, Culture)
Director: Andrew Martin
A cave boy with disruptive flatulence and his father live a cold life in the Alps, until the boy is sent outside and changes life forever.
(USA, 2011, 48’, Sport)
Producer: Steve Fisher, Pete Jasienski
Director: Steve Fisher
Three of the world’s best kayakers take a two-month journey to the paddling meccas of Iceland and Norway. While they search inside the Arctic Circle for rapids and waterfalls that have never been run, they are also searching for the elusive moments when the stars align and everything goes perfectly. But sometimes – in the blink of an eye – things go horribly wrong. The inevitable externalities of their main goal are what they call the ‘halo effect’.
(USA, 2011, 29’, Sport) WORLD PREMIERE
Producer: Kimberly Phinney
Director: Hamilton Pevec
Babu and Lakpa, two Nepali men, channel the Hindu God of Wind and redefi ne what is possible. From the Top of the World to an ocean they’ve never seen, these two men have forever changed the culture of Everest
(USA, 2010, 45 min) CANADIAN PREMIERE
Director: Greg Chaney
A young married couple with a passion for adventure turn their camera on themselves, even in their weakest moments, as they attempt to walk, paddle and ski under their own power from Seattle to the Aleutians. Filmed over the period of a grueling year, this fi lm reveals the rugged beauty of the wild northwest coast of North America – and the true meaning of intrepid.
(USA, 2011, 42’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer/Director: Ben Stookesbury
“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 fi rst descent of the dangerous Lukuga River. Seven weeks into the expedition, tragedy struck.
(Italy, 2010, 17’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Hervé Barmasse
An Italian father and son continue the family’s multi-generational dedication to – and passion for – the mountains by putting up a bold new route on the south face of the Matterhorn.
(Canada, 2010, 7’, Sport)
Producer: Nathan Gillis
Director: Callum Peterson
A caveman discovers skiing, thanks to his new friendship with a woolly mammoth.
(USA, 2011, 4’, Culture)
Producer/Director: Bill Donavan
Look at me and my head-cam!
(UK, 2010, 58’, Wildlife)
Producer/Director: Steve Greenwood
Snow leopards stalk their prey among the highest peaks, the chase scanned by golden eagles circling above. Extraordinary bears and square-faced foxes hunt small rodents to survive on the harsh plains of the Tibetan plateau. In this world of extremes, The Himalayas reveal not only snow-capped mountains and fascinating animals, but also a vital lifeline for humanity.
(USA, 2010, 6’, Culture)
Producer/Director: Renan Ozturk*
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.”
(Australia, 2010, 4 x 44’, Feature)
Producer: Richard Dennison
Director: Tim Cope
On an epic journey of truly historic proportions, Australian Tim Cope, his band of horses, and his pup Tigon travel overland 10,000 km from Mongolia to Hungary following the footsteps of legendary warrior and nomad Genghis Khan. Camping on the high plains, traversing ice-capped mountains and treacherous deserts, shedding the sedentary life and drinking a lot of vodka in homes along the way, Cope visits distant parts of the world rarely seen, places on the cusp of modernity yet proud of their nomadic traditions. His humble spirit and dedication to the journey make him a welcome visitor at each stop, allowing unique access in to people’s lives. Cope’s stunning three-year journey is so chocked full of emotions, from fear and anger to love and compassion that his heartfelt and genuine passion for the journey will leave you openhearted and inspired.
(Italy, 2010, 52’, Environment)
Producer: Roberto Dall’Angelo
Director: Massimiliano Sbrolla
More than a century ago, Vittorio Sella captured some of the most iconic photos in mountaineering history. Now, photographer and alpinist Fabiano Ventura returns to the Karakorum to recreate the exact images, comparing today’s images with Sella’s – and allowing us to appreciate how climate change has forever altered the Baltoro Glacier.
(Austria, 2011, 25’, Sport)
Producer: Eva Walkner
Director: Marcel Karp
Two women explore the unique ski culture, epic powder slopes, and colorful villages of Kashmir, a paradise for freeriders.
(USA, 2011, 63’, Environment)
Producer: Jeff Ostenson
Director: Jamie Howell
In the pristine forests, there exists a world of hidden trailheads and clandestine trails. A sect of mountain bike enthusiasts has gone underground – the skate punks of the forest, unwelcome and under pressure to leave. Ironically, both bikers and Park officials are fighting for the same thing – the rights of the public to play in the woods. Pedal- Driven examines the shared philosophies of stewardship and sustainability from both sides, using the Pacific Northwest as a proving ground.
Reach extraordinary heights with The Prophet – a behind-the-scenes story of remarkable human endeavor produced and directed by Alastair Lee of Posing Productions and featuring Leo Houlding.
“The A1 Beauty crux of the Prophet is the most perfect pitch I could ever have imagined. Such an aesthetic line in an unequaled position, so desperately thin and painfully close to my limit. Succeeding on the first ascent is a dream come true. If I never climb anything harder I will not be disappointed.”
(USA, 2011, 13’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Josh Lowell
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 nine-metre icicle bombs and send the hardest pure ice climb in the world.
(USA, 2011, 23’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Josh Lowell
There’s a nine-year-old girl from New York City taking the bouldering world by storm, and her name is Ashima Shiraishi. Under the tutelage of her passionate coach, this tiny master is crushing competitions and raising the bar for her peers. Her coach delivers her to a bouldering mecca, and Ashima rips the place apart.
(USA, 2011, 24’, Climbing)
Producer: Nick Rosen
Director: Peter Mortimer
Welcome to the wildest competition known to man – the speed record on the Nose route of El Capitan. For 50 years, the best climbers in the world have been one-upping each other on this massive granite monolith in Yosemite National Park, racing up 3,000 feet of vertical rock in under three hours, and risking life and limb to shave mere seconds off the record time to claim this hotly-contested prize.
(USA, 2011, 20’, Sport)
Producer: Nick Rosen
Director: Peter Mortimer
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.
(Canada, 2011, 4’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Ben Marr
Massive waves, giant waterfalls, huge holes – this is some of the biggest whitewater footage you’ll ever see!
(USA, 2010, 4’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Skip Armstrong
Deep canyons with steep, spring-fed creeks provide Kate Wagner with a soul-session in this paddling paradise.
(Canada, 2011, 4’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Skip Armstrong
Brian Ward discovers an unexpected and new-found love for water, in its frozen and expanded form.
(Slovenia, 2011, 70 min)
Producer: Vojko Anzeljc
Director: Gregor Kresal
On the north face of Triglav, the highest peak in the Julian Alps, there is a giant wall known as The Sphinx. Daunting and imposing, it has stirred the imagination of Slovenian climbers for centuries, and is included itself, as a character in this dramatic feature-documentary. With dizzying heights and sharp angles, this film recreates the heroic efforts of the first team to climb the Sphinx in 1966, and more recently, highlights the wall’s fi st free climb. On the summit, the generations come together in a Who’s Who of Slovenian mountain culture.
(USA, 2011, 45’, Sport)
Producer: Zac Ramras
Director: Nick Waggoner
In the high desert of South America, winter takes hold, and a handful of drifters emerge from the whiteout, ready to cast their lot onto inhospitable lands and forsaken peaks. From Argentina’s legendary Las Leñas, a lonely two-year journey begins, and wanders the length of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca to Chilean Patagonia. Seen from a horse’s saddle and a paraglider’s wings; ridden on ski and board; Solitaire ventures beyond the frontiers of most mountain films – and is shot in stunning style destined only for the big screen.
(Joy Trip Project Review=> http://joytripproject.org/2011/solitaire/)
(USA, 2011, 44’, Environment)
Producer/Director: Trip Jennings
Photographers join the Gitga’at First Nation of British Columbia in an attempt to photograph the illusive all-white spirit bear. Respect for their local guide, who is deeply connected to the bear and its environment, heightens the drive to protect a place threatened by a proposed oil pipeline.
(Canada, 2011, 79’, Feature)
Producer/ Director: Ritu Sarin
A uniquely Tibetan perspective on the complicated forces tugging at the Dalai Lama and his people. The filmmakers had intimate access to the Dalai Lama, following him for an eventful year and finding him caught between peaceful solutions and the impatience of a younger generation.
(France, 2011, 26’, Sport)
Producer: Matthieu Giraud
Director: Guido Perrini
Get a glimpse behind the scenes of a season with big mountain legend Xavier de le Rue. Dealing with dangers, joys, and the ups and downs of a winter spent skimming his board over steep and gnarly lines, it’s all in a day’s work for one of the world’s finest snowboarders.
(USA, 2011, 14’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Renan Ozturk
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.
(Switzerland, 2010, 5’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Tom Malecha
People collect all kinds of things: stamps, coins, art – this is a collection of trails.
(USA, 2011, 27’, Adventure)
Producer/Director: John Waller
Follow two intrepid tree climbers on a pioneering one-kilometre transect through the forest canopy over five days.
A Tribute to Claremount
(Canada, 2011, 5 min) WORLD PREMIERE
Producer/Director: Glen Crawford
The summer before A.O. Wheeler’s historic cottage, Claremount, was demolished, a group of ten artists gathered at the site to document the rich history of this residence.
(Slovakia, 2011, 54’, Adventure & Exploration)
Producer/Director: Pavol Barabás
Located in the middle of Réunion National Park in the Indian Ocean, Trou de Fer, or the Iron Hole, is the Mount Everest of canyons. Only the very best have the skills to abseil into its depth, and once inside there is no guarantee they will get out.
(Sweden, 2010, 36’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Niklas Allestig
In a lighthearted comic-book style film, Scandinavia’s hottest skiers rock out and rip it up around the world.
(Poland, 2010, 30’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Eliza Kubarska
An extraordinary romance shot within the austere beauty and loneliness of the fjords of southern Greenland. Polish alpinists Eliza Kubarska and David Kaszlikowski strive to scale the world’s highest sea cliff, reachable only by kayak across an eerie, storm-ridden sea.
(Switzerland, 2010, 3’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Tom Malecha
To conquer summits, to explore new trails, to experience the thrill of speed – there are as many motivations as there are riders.
(Canada, 2011, 54’, Environment) CANADIAN PREMIERE
Producer/Director: David Lavallee
Canada’s water is in trouble. Follow an imaginary drop from the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, down the Athabasca River and through the oil sands, discovering the inextricable link between water and oil in our modern world.
Whitewater Grand Prix
Canada, 2011, 4’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Ben Marr
The White Water Grand Prix brings together 25 of the world’s best kayakers for a six-stage competition on spectacular whitewater across Québec.
(Germany, 2009, 45’, Wildlife)
Producer: Tom Synnatzschke
Director: Christian Baumeister
There’s a remarkable diversity on one of the world’s most harsh and remote corners. Nowhere else is the Earth’s fiery breath more immediate. This film stands out for its remarkable visual affection for Kamchatka, portraying the peninsula as a unique and wild frontier.
(USA, 2011, 25’, Climbing)
Producer/Director: Jeremy Collins
A father writes home to his four-year-old son from the summit of a new climb on the China-Mongolia border, to teach him life lessons and invite him to run from a life of complacency.
(Canada, 2011, 89’, Feature)
Producer/ Director: Andrew Simpson
Battling temperatures of -60° Celsius, an animal trainer, his pack of wolves, and his crew travel from northern Alberta to the other side of the world. Intensely engaging, this is a touching portrayal of a caring and trusting animal, and one man’s struggle as he wrestles with the decision to use his unique bond with the wolves against them. A remarkable accomplishment caught on film, be prepared to question everything you think you know about wolves.
(USA, 2011, 4’, Sport)
Producer/Director: Renan Ozturk
Dean Potter’s latest adventure demonstrates a cutting-edge high-line rigging that blends classic tightrope gear with recent slack-line discoveries during a perilous crossing of Upper Yosemite Falls.
(Canada, 2011, 7’, Culture)
Producer/Director: Nicolas Teichrob
Fat skis, bike fenders and a surfboard – the essentials for making the most of winter on Canada’s West Coast.