Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Review: Banff Mountain Film Festival (2011)

This is the review that was meant to go up last Thursday by the way and tomorrow's review will be on the last season of Buffy so I'll be getting back on track tomorrow.

I first heard about the Banff Mountain Film Festival when my school sent out an email announcing the dates for it and had a link to this seriously amazing trailer. I almost didn't see it however but, after some convincing by my dad and his girlfriend, and having some extra cash on hand, I bought one of the last tickets and saw it even though I was feeling really under the weather that day. I'm super glad I made the effort to get out and see some of the films though, not only is it breath taking to see all of these films on a two-story screen (I think seeing that trailer beforehand in the auditorium did take my breath away) but these were also amazingly good films (I can barely look at the ones in my video class now).
For the world tour, about six different films are shown each night (for two nights) and, since I wasn't feeling well, I only caught four films, this is out of a total of 64 films I believe. So, since none of these were longer than 40 minutes, I'm going to do this similar to my webcomic reviews back in March and just write a quick thing about each of them. And honestly, they were all amazing, I don't know if I have anything bad to say about them anyway.

Wildwater Directed & Produced by Anson Fogel
This is actually the film that I liked the least but that's out of a group of amazing videos so it's not a bad film at all. One of the longer films, it's a documentary on white-water paddling and the direction of the video makes it look like a stylish National Geographic documentary. If not for it's length it wouldn't be out of place at all on a TV channel such as National Geographic or maybe the Discovery Channel. It was paced well, none of the shots went on too long, had interviews with some interesting people and the visuals just make you want to take up a paddle and tackle a river yourself.

Chimaera Directed by Dave Mossop
The complete opposite of Wildwater, Chimaera is a short, surrealistic piece about skiing with no talking, lots of filters, and generally a very stylish little film. I'm not quite sure what the film was trying to say (other than, skiing is amazing!) but it was an interesting choice to put right after Wildwater and is a great example that your film doesn't have to be a documentary to be shown at Banff.

Eastern Rises Directed by Ben Knight
If you had told me before this night that I would see a documentary about fly-fishing in far eastern Russia and I would laugh my ass off at it, I would have looked at you funny. That said, I can see why this won the "Best Film on Mountain Sports" award since, speaking as someone who has no interest in fly-fishing, it was an entertaining film and completely accessible. There's a lot of well-done humor in the film (narrator talks about one guy's bigfoot obsession, cut to bigfoot wandering around on the other side of the river as the guy is fishing and then appearing in more clips later on) so, as casual as they may seem, a lot of thought must have gone into planning, shooting, and editing this film. 

Life Cycles Directed & Produced by Ryan Gibbs & Derek Frankowski
The first few minutes of this film are amazing, so amazing in fact, that they could either be their own film or be a very expensive advertisement for a bicycle brand and wow, I would buy those bikes in a heartbeat. But no, the film keeps on going and and shows that these guys can shoot more than nice product shots, they can also do amazing action video. The scene of a bike flipping over tall, yellow grass from the trailer is in this film and there are some amazing composite shots of a bike rushing through a landscape that changes seasons as it passes through. The amount of editing those shots must have needed is amazing and every other shot in the film looks gorgeous as well, lots of saturation and good light balance as well. This was my favorite of the bunch, it just looked stunning and somehow managed to tell a story without any words at all.

AZADI: Freedom Directed & Produced by Anthony Bonello
Another longer film, set in the Kashmir region of India, this is the story of a formerly war-torn region that is coming back to life as more and more tourists return to it's sky slopes. The fighting over nearby Tibet seems to overshadow the trouble Kashmir has had in recent decades (it honestly sounds like it needs to be it's own country since Pakistan and India have been fighting over it for so long) but this film was about how the area is getting back to it's feet but it really needs it's tourists to revive the economy and quite honestly the ski slopes look amazingly good. This was a very down-to-earth film that talked with a lot of people in the area, both young and old, and there is a great sense of hope for the future, one can only hope that this area gets a second chance at peace.


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