Banff Mountain Film Festival Night Three: Redemption 

  • Banff Mountain Film Festival

It took three days, but on the final night of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in the Boise High School auditorium, the Canadian emcee touring with the show finally pronounced "Boise" correctly. 

"Boy-see, am I saying that right?" he asked the audience. "Well if you ever come to Banff, make sure you pronounce it 'Banff,' and not 'Banff-ff-ff.'"

The last evening of the film fest on Jan. 27 was redemption after the lackluster lineup the night before. Builder started the night off with high energy, as the nine-minute film explored the theme park-esque terrain a group of mountain bikers built for themselves—complete with vertical jumps, spiraling walls, a 360-degree loop and an old school bus. 
click to enlarge Yeah, that looks doable. - FROM BUILDER BY JULIAN COFFEE AND SCOTT SECCO
  • From Builder by Julian Coffee and Scott Secco
  • Yeah, that looks doable.

Salween Spring followed, introducing us to a raft guide hellbent on getting Chinese families out on the free-flowing rivers running through their country—before it's too late.

Many of China's rivers are quickly disappearing behind massive dams, causing a personal struggle in the raft guide's own life. It was a film that left the audience smiling almost the whole way through, as children and adults alike experienced splashy rapids for the first time. The film was put together by Will Stauffer-Norris, a one-time Boise local who used to work at Cascade Raft and Kayak in Horseshoe Bend.

While the first night of films were a blast to watch, there was no doubt a noticeable shortage of women. The lineup last night rectified that problem with the short film Women's Speed Ascent, which tagged along with Mayan Smith-Gobat and Libby Sauter as they crushed the speed record ascending the Nose on El Cap in Yosemite National Park. Another badass woman made her appearance in Climbing Ice—The Iceland Trifecta, as she monkeyed around gorgeous ice caves and icebergs. 

The night's longest film, Voyagers Without Trace, quickly became a crowd favorite. In 46 minutes, it told the story of three Parisians who bagged the first kayak exploration of the Grand Canyon in 1938. Two newlyweds and their best friend pulled together three kayaks made of wood and canvas and struggled through the Colorado River's technical rapids, making friends along the way. 

click to enlarge This documentary is a must-see. - FROM VOYAGERS WITHOUT TRACE BY IAN MCCLUSKY
  • From Voyagers Without Trace by Ian McClusky
  • This documentary is a must-see.
Filmmaker Ian McClusky's interest was sparked when he found a plaque commemorating their journey. He tracked down their children and uncovered reels of color film from their trip. Despite an intense fear of water and no idea how to kayak, their expedition inspired McClusky to trace their journey. The film pulled together romance, adventure, humor and conquest through clever editing and brilliant storytelling. In this year's overall Banff lineup, Voyagers Without Trace stood out as particularly great.

click to enlarge This film will have you running home to embrace your pup as soon as you can. - SCREENSHOT FROM DENALI BY BEN MOON AND BEN KNIGHT
  • Screenshot from Denali by Ben Moon and Ben Knight
  • This film will have you running home to embrace your pup as soon as you can.
While the short films in the festival often leave the audience laughing, tensing or cringing together, one film in the lineup left few eyes dry in the theater. Denali features the powerful relationship of a guy and his dog during the last days of the dog's life. Beautifully shot and cleverly told through the dog's perspective, Denali served as a celebration of friendship and a gentle goodbye to our closest companions.

Like The Important Places from opening night, the filmmakers behind Denali collaborated with Boise's own Skip Armstrong.

Another particularly captivating film gave the audience a glimpse into the amount of skill it takes to pilot a paraglide. Rocky Mountains Traverse documents two paraglide pilots as they attempt to follow the Rocky Mountains through a 430-mile traverse to the Canada/U.S. border. Carrying all their camping supplies with them, they flew up to eight hours per day. They were often swept up in unstable wind currents and left spinning like a top in the air. At one point, the wind died down and led to one of the pilots smacking his face against the ground in a hard landing. Overall, it shed light on the intricacies that come from piloting a small piece of nylon through rugged mountain terrain. 

The festival ended with a six-minute edit featuring some remarkably deep powder skiing in Japan, but instead of using some played-out electronic music and words like "sick," "gnar," "shralp," "shred," "pow pow," "freshies," and "jibber," no one said a single word in this film. The soundtrack was instead provided by Sylvan Esso, a slow-paced song more suitable for sipping a drink than plunging into powder. The wildly successful juxtaposition in Warmth of Winter left the audience pensive and calm. There couldn't have been a better end to a total of nine hours of films over three nights. 

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour this year turned into a journey unto itself, taking viewers all over the world through all sorts of exciting sports and experiences. Now, the films head to Sun Valley on Friday, Jan. 29, Saturday, Jan. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 31 at NexStage Theatre. Next year, Banff promoters promise the festival will be held in its usual home—the Egyptian Theatre—complete with beer and wine.

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