The annual Banff Mountain Film Festival has been running from its base in south-western Canada since 1975, but for those unable to travel to the resort town in Alberta for the nine-day event, the festival also takes a selection of its films on the road. Spanning 50 countries, the tour starts in North America before branching out across the globe. The UK and Ireland leg runs this year from January to May.
“It’s a celebration of mountain culture and adventure,” tour organiser Nell Teasdale tells Avaunt. “You get a lot of prominent authors, writers, photographers, filmmakers and adventurers all coming to present their latest work and expeditions.” Over 300 films are entered each year, before the staff of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity collaborate with members of the local community to whittle that number down to 70, which are then watched by the festival’s jury panel, who award a series of prizes to those judged the best.
The complete film programme is then cut down further to around 40 for the world tour, with differing selections making their way to each of the 50 countries to best suit a local audience. While during its earliest years the festival restricted itself to films that “featured a mountain or some description of mountain culture”, Teasdale reflects that the scope has now been broadened to encompass expeditions and challenges in remote, wilderness-type environments that “capture the spirit of adventure in some shape or form.”
To give moviegoers on the tour a good taste of what the festival has to offer, whichever night they attend, Banff offer two distinct collections of films – a Blue Programme and a Red Programme – each offering a mix of seven shorts of various length. Pressed to name a standout documentary and filmmaker from this year’s festival, Teasdale opts for the half-hour Four Mums in a Boat and its British filmmaker Simon Tucker. The film follows four middle-aged working mothers from Yorkshire who in 2016 became the oldest all-female crew to row across an ocean when they completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
“Tucker did a lot of film and television producing over the years before visiting the Banff Mountain Film Festival and being incredibly inspired by the whole thing, prompting him to leave his very well-paying job to become an adventure film maker,” Teasdale says. “He’s got a really good eye for a story, and while he was filming the race that year, he found these women. For me, that’s definitely the most inspiring film this year, and I think he’s definitely a filmmaker to watch out for in the future.”
Four Mums in a Boat is joined in this year’s touring programme by films as diverse as the five-minute magical mountain bike adventure trip Dream Ride and 25-minute Dog Power which offers a rare glimpse into the intriguing world of dog-powered sports. “The films have got great characters and adventurists doing really fantastic things,” Teasdale says. “It’s not just ski-porn or mountain biking set to music, but something that most people can get their teeth into and relate to in some way, and there’s certainly enough variety to ensure that everybody will walk away feeling inspired.”