Sunday, April 1, 2012

Movie Review: The 2011 Banff Mountain Film Festival

And it's back to a more normal review schedule, and of course when I say this when I have another special title to review, oh well. Like last year I the Banff Mountain Film Festival (trailer here) had a two night showing at my school and I managed to get out to the Friday night viewing (also like last year I wasn't feeling so well during the movies, hope that tradition doesn't continue). This year I stayed for all seven films shown (another seven were shown Saturday night) out of the roughly 60 chosen and over 300 submitted. Some of the films shown were just clips/special edits but I thought all of those were good representations and very well done. I should also mention that I had to set through two two hour lectures by the filmmaker Anson Vogel earlier in the day so I really was a bit tired by this point and I'm keeping the reviews a bit shorter and more informal as a result.

First up was an 11 minute clip of the 75 minute film All.I.Can: The Short Cut which was focused on skiing. There was some nice masking in the beginning as they matched up clips shot in the same location in different locations and then the film shifted to a long montage of "urban skiing" which is exactly what it sounds like. I've never heard of anyone crazy enough to go skiing across laws and roads but it looked really cool here, I wonder if anyone is going to be crazy enough to try this out in my town next year.

Next up was the full length version of the film Chasing Water which documented the Colorado river as it flowed from it's headwaters in the Rockies down towards the Pacific Ocean. I say towards since the film showed just how much of the water is siphoned off now for various cities (interestingly enough it seems that Las Vegas has taken a larger stance on conserving the river than Tuscon or Phoenix farther down) which combined with a decades long drought has greatly reduced the river. Despite this the overall tone of the film wasn't somber at all but the ending was still a bit sad.

Third up was the longest video of the night, a 46 minute cut of On the trail of Genghis Khan: The Last Frontier and the fourth and final installment in this series. The story had started three years earlier as Tim Cope set out to travel in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and retrace his journey on horseback across Euro-Asia. This part covered the last bit of his journey and despite the long running time the film didn't feel long at all. For this part I believe there was a camera man traveling with Cope and it's amazing to see some of the landscapes he covers here including the dangerous Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe. I have been told that you can see part of his journeys and buy the full version on his website and I'm seriously considering doing that after this film.

Interestingly enough that film reminded me of a book that ended up being one of my first reviews on the site, In the Footsteps of Marco Polo which followed two guys as they traveled across Euro-Asia in the opposite direction also following the path of a centuries dead man. I really enjoy travelouges like these quite a bit so On the trail of Genghis Khan also ended up being my favorite film out of the bunch.

After a short intermission we were back for a just over 20 minute film Obe and Ashima which focused on an older rock climber who had once been a pro but burned out and a young girl who shows a lot of talent for rock climbing who he is mentoring. The film managed to split it's time between the two of them very well and the film wouldn't have felt complete with only one side of the story. I hadn't been aware that rock climbing was even considered a serious sport, I like it but the rest of the world can sometimes be finicky about what is considered "a sport" and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for Ashima in future Olympics to see how far she goes.

Up next was the shortest film of the night, the first in the Seasons series which focused on white-water kayaking. This short showed kayaking in winter and had some neat shots of the kayaker starting off on a snowy slope and then launching into the water, like the urban skiing in All.I.Can I hadn't see that before and I wonder if come next winter anyone will be inspired to try out something different.

This next film actually had a warning for language and "disturbing imagery" from the MC (the disturbing imagery was bodies of climbers who had died on their attempts which I certainly didn't want to see on a Friday night) and was the film that Anson Vogel had made, Cold. This one won several awards including Grand Prize Winner for the entire festival and, while I can see why, I didn't like this film and it was my least favorite of the night. The film was about three climbers as they attempted to climb a peak in the winter (I have forgotten which one but I believe it's near Pakistan) which has never successfully been done before and a good deal of the film was an inner monologue from the main character which irritated me. A lot of his thoughts centered around "god I'm such a fuck-up, why am I doing this?" and that kind of thinking is so opposite of my own that I was rolling my eyes the entire time. Again, I can easily see why so many people enjoyed this film, it's well put together and plenty of people would be going through similar thoughts in a situation like that, but it just wasn't to my taste.

And the final film of the night was the only humorous entry of the bunch, CARCA which was about the Canadian Avalanche Response Cat Association and about all the training they've had to do and all the trouble they've gone through to be accepted by the over avalanche response groups. Another shorter film so there isn't as much to say but the humor was done well and I'm sure if I had posted it somewhere as an April Fools joke some people would have fallen for it.

And that's it for this year! Next year I might be able to make it out for both days, although I wonder if there's any other way to see the other films that weren't showing here....     

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