Old friends, new friends, fellow mountain lovers – we unite annually in November for nine days of adventure, exploration and mountain culture as told through films, books and speakers at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. It is a world-renowned celebration of the best of mountain writing and outdoor adventure – held in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park.
We sit down in the theatre and nod to the couple beside us. Before long we are talking about the expectant birth of their second child, how they have always wanted to see the festival and their trip from eastern United States just for the films. Talk about drawing power!
Out of This World
Lights dim, conversation fades and we’re pulled into the world of the explorer – dancing on sheer cliffs, ripping up the slopes and tackling frozen waterfalls. The festival began as the Banff Festival of Mountain Films in 1976. It was a one-day event sponsored by the Banff Centre’s School of the Environment and The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC).
My mind flips back to the first time I attended the final night “best of” films. It lasted until well after midnight, but the films were so engaging that it didn’t matter. Climbing, skiing, kayaking, biking, adventure, culture and the environment flashed before me in a kaleidoscope of color and movement.
About 300 films are entered in the Banff Mountain Film Festival every year. The top 40 or so are selected to be shown. Exploration, excitement, and inspiration are paired with the exhilarating beauty of wild landscapes – from mountaintops to river basins to barren deserts around the world.
Each year I’m transported into the scene unfolding before my eyes. I feel the sting of the sand as the hikers struggle to pull a cart across Oman’s Empty Quarter. I burst out laughing at the antics of polar explorers relieving the stress of their journey through hissy fits and humour. I find myself tearing up as I watch the mighty Colorado River turn to dust miles from where it once flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Ten years after the first festival, the award-winning films began touring North America. The Banff Centre’s Mountain Culture program was established in 1996 to continue the annual festival and sponsor research, events and educational programs on international alpine activities including an annual photography competition. Today, following the main festival, a selection of films heads out on a world tour, travelling to 40 countries.
In addition to film screenings, the festival brings in guest speakers including world-renowned adventurers, explorers, authors, conservationists and filmmakers with literary readings, panel discussions, presentations and slide shows. Between films, festival attendees can peruse the latest gear, clothing and adventure travel opportunities in the trade booths, or find the perfect mountain-themed gift in the ever-expanding arts and craft fair.