Banff Mountain Film Festival Night Two: Important Messages, but a Lack of Excitement 

  • Banff Mountain Film Festival

As exciting and visually stunning as the first night of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour was Jan. 25, the festival's second night—Jan. 26—felt lackluster in comparison. The theme of Tuesday's showcase focused more on conservation and preservation of the world's wildlife and wildlands. And while the films spread important messages, the presentation wasn't particularly engaging. 

The festival, which continued at the Boise High School auditorium due to a scheduling conflict with Opera Idaho at the Egyptian Theatre, started off strong with the nine-minute film 55 Hours in Mexico. The film followed three weekend warriors as they flew from Denver to Veracruz on a Friday, momentarily lost their luggage and ski gear, pushed a rental car 10,000 feet up a muddy dirt road, then spent Saturday climbing the third-highest peak in North America and skiing down the mountainside—all before returning to work Monday morning.

Tuesday night's next film highlighted three runners as they took on the 100-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. Two of the three were both male and dropped out of the race—one at 17 miles in and the other at 87 miles—while the third, a woman, took first place among females in the race. The three featured athletes were about as quirky and unique as you need to be to enjoy running 100 miles (close to 24 hours) straight. 

The four-minute Sounds of Paragliding was visually pleasing as paragliding pilot Theo de Blic showed off his dizzying mid-flight acrobatics.

And that was, perhaps, where the night started to make a turn for the worse. The 46-minute long Unbranded won the people's choice award in Banff, but it felt too long.

Unbanded captured the journey of four cowboys who attempted to take 16 wild mustangs on a 3,000-mile journey from Mexico to Canada. It also stressed the importance of leaving open space for thousands of wild mustangs that roam the wild—yet it left the audience gasping at the trials and tribulations the 16 horses had to go through to walk border-to-border. While much of the film was fun and exciting, it could have been a bit more condensed to hold the audience's attention better.

click to enlarge Unbranded won the People's Choice Award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, but left much of the audience gasping. - UNBRANDED
  • Unbranded
  • Unbranded won the People's Choice Award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, but left much of the audience gasping.
After an alcohol-free intermission (can't have beer and wine on school property), Tuesday night's showcase resumed with a disappointing lineup of films. Sweetgrass Productions' Darklight attempted to recreate the 2014 
click to enlarge Same concept as Afterglow, but not as good. - DARKLIGHT, BY SWEETGRASS PRODUCTIONS
  • Darklight, by Sweetgrass Productions
  • Same concept as Afterglow, but not as good.
award-winning film Afterglow, which featured skiers shredding the slopes in the night, brilliantly lit by LED light suits and giant, colorful spotlights. Darklight swapped skiers for mountain bikers, but the result was a letdown that seemed more gimmicky than innovative. 

Operation Moffat followed a young female climber named Claire Carter tracing the career and life of Gwen Moffat—Britain's first female mountain guide. While 90-year-old Moffat offered plenty of interesting insight looking back at her life, from deserting the army to climbing the mountains of Europe barefoot and bagging plenty of first ascents, placing Carter in the forefront felt contrived and forced.

Paddle for the North offered a similar message of conservation, this time for the watersheds of the Yukon Territory, but at 26 minutes, it also felt like it dragged on as six friends took three canoes on a 60-day mission to trace several rivers through Canada and Alaska. They struggled to portage their gear around unrunnable rapids and talked with First Nation fishermen, but the film ended anticlimactically as they finished their journey and pulled their canoes onto the shore.
The evening's final film, Paradise Waits felt like the odd one out. The 7-minute edit from Teton Gravity Research featured one bro-skier shredding groomers at Jackson Hole and drinking beer, before switching over to a badass woman skier tackling big lines in Alaska.

Overall, several members of the audience grumbled about the slow-paced night. Here's hoping tonight's finale will be more lively. Tonight's films include two women attempting a speed ascent up El Cap, a kayaker paddling through China's soon-to-be-dammed rivers, and the memory of a special, four-legged friend. The show starts at 7 p.m. and a full schedule can be viewed here.
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