Banff Mountain Film Festival Celebrates the Spirit of Adventure, Once Again

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The 2013 adventure film festival season came to a grand finale the Banff Mountain Book & Film Festival in Alberta, Canada. The producers of the many great works of literature and cinema created took center stage to receive awards for their tremendous accomplishments. There in the spotlight before the thunderous applause of a grateful audience the best authors, filmmakers, and outdoor athletes in the world brought to a close an exciting 12 months of exploring. And as the first hard snow of winter fell over the great Canadian Rockies the crowds left the Erick Harvey Theater at the Banff Center inspired to begin another lap around the sun pushing the furthest boundaries of the human experience.

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Tim Cope, the explorer of the Eurasian Steppes of Mongolia, received the Grand Prize along with the award for Best Travel Writing for his incredible story as told in the book On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads. Also produced as a feature film in 2012, his adventure set the pace for the roll-out of a wide variety of exciting and inspiring yarns that kept both readers and viewers on the edge of their seats.

North of the Sun, by Norwegian filmmaker Inge Wegge and Jorn Ranum, took the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award along with the Dolby Audio Award for the stunning portrayal of two young men manifesting a dream.  As they spend the better part of a year building a shelter within a remote cove on the coast of Norway, Inge and Jorn ply themselves—as well to their passion for riding the big waves of winter—paragliding and snowboarding. Nestled just below the Arctic Circle they find themselves happily struggling against the elements in a paradise of their own making. While combing the beach for the raw materials they used to build their home they gathered up tons of discarded trash from across the world’s oceans. In the delicate balance of pleasure and responsibility, they tirelessly worked to preserve the place where they live and love to play.

True to the spirit of true adventure the selection of films and events at Banff this year seemed to constantly remind the audience of the risk and consequence in the pursuit of dreams as well as the rewards. After a stunning sweep of prizes last year for his film Crossing the Ice, Australian adventurer Justin “Jonesy” Jones returned to Banff to share his story of the epic passage over the windswept tundra of Antarctica. With his partner James “Cas” Castrission, he successfully skied to the South Pole and back again after three grueling months of horrific conditions. Suddenly finding themselves in a fierce rivalry with Norwegian adventurer Aleksander Gamme, who shared the same goal, the three men formed an amazing friendship that allowed them to join their efforts and complete the journey together. Though several days ahead of Cas & Jonesy, Gamme waited for the two Australians three kilometers from their objective so that they could finish this great achievement as one team. Gamme and Jonesy shared the Banff stage to deliver a raucous yet seamless presentation to a captivated crowd and a standing ovation.

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In an equally compelling presentation, Norwegian climber and polar explorer Cecilie Skog offered an intimate look into her continuing triumphs even after great tragedy. In 2008 while climbing together on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, her husband Rolf Bae was killed in an avalanche on the descent. During the most deadly 48 hour period on this Karakoram giant ten other people perished as well. A new documentary called The Summit, which screened at Banff, recounts the events as they unfolded. Skog, who appears in the film, shared her true story on stage with incredible grace and poise to demonstrate that despite having witnessed the terrible loss of her most beloved, she was able to go on with her life in adventure. Her accomplishments in  recent years include expeditions to both the North and the South Poles.

Bringing together some of the most amazing stories in modern times the organizers of Banff deliver a complete package of inspiration. Though this year was thoroughly represented by the nation of Norway, their tales of exploration span the globe and will bring the best adventure films to big cities and small towns around the world. This list includes a line-up of movies that range from the extreme with action flicks like The Last Great Climb by Alastair Lee or Into the Mind from Sherpas Cinema to the sentimental as seen through portraits like Keeper of the Mountain by Alison Otto or 35 from Duct Tape Then Beer.

Though not all audiences on the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour will be treated to the same show from one venue to the next, the most likely films to be shown will include edited versions of much anticipated features like Valhalla from Sweetgrass Productions or exquisite short films such as Cascada by Anson Fogel and Skip Armstrong. Peter Mortimer and his crew at Sender Films will offer up two selections from their 8th Reel Rock Film series Spice Girl and High Tension, a documentary about the “fight” on Everest last season, which took this year’s Banff prize for Best Film on Mountain Culture. And in his first major film project, climber Cedar Wright makes his debut in the 2013 tour with his beautifully edited buddy movie Sufferfest, featuring free soloist Alex Honnold.

Every year the Banff Mountain Film Festival sets in motion the excitement and enthusiasm of the coming year of adventure. Even as the current season draws to an end, the continuum of stories moves forward into a bright future filled with the promise of more wild rides and epic journeys yet to come. Though fraught with danger and the ever present risk of tragedy these stories encourage our desire to venture forth into the great unknown. And it’s through these amazing books films that we are allowed to see what mysteries lie just beyond our imagination.

This story originally appeared in the National Geographic Adventure blog Beyond the Edge on November 6, 2013
The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the generous support of MAKO Surgical Corp

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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