ROOKIE REVIEW: Banff Mountain Film Festival

Rookie Reviewer, Bryony Williams went along to Banff Mountain Festival to watch some mindblowing and inspiring adventures. See what she thought of the festival.

As a first-timer to the Banff community, I felt more than excited for what’s to come when joining the masses in Birmingham’s extravagant Town Hall for it’s 7th edition. With everyone absorbing their minds into the Banff program hand-outs, the lights dim down and anticipation swings into full motion.

After cut-ups of scenic adventures as the introduction informs us of what’s to be expected, the presenting of BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour begins. With witty lines and a humorous discourse, the presenter cracks on with the show, introducing each short film featured in today’s event.

The Blue Programme kicks off the day with 7 film segments, followed by the Red Programme in an evening screening. With no hesitation, 55 Hours in Mexico opened up the day’s festival and definitely did not ease us into these outdoors exploits. Instead, we ended up on top of the third-highest peak in North America, suffering from altitude sickness, and skiing down the mountain, to then be ready for work on the Monday.

Now I won’t go into detail about all the films as that’s for you to discover yourself, which is much like the message throughout the film festival. But 55 Hours in Mexico really struck a chord with me and I’m sure with the rest of the audience too as intended. Showing that just because you work Monday to Friday 9 to 5, that is still no excuse to not explore and fulfil your ambitions.

Both the Blue and Red Programme ranged with an array of action sports. From kayaking down Niagara Falls, to following the adventure of a photographer with a vision to capture a skier in front of a solar eclipse in Norway, to a background exclusive into the life of Texas horseman riding 3,000 miles through desolate terrain on wild horses. Banff truly takes you on these adventures as if you were part of the camera crew, experiencing the freezing temperatures of Alaska, living and breathing the atmospheres each screening takes you on and as if you could close your eyes and smell the open air for yourself.

The most impactful pleasure I had viewing Banff was not only the beauty of time-lapses of landscapes and the dedication all persons portrayed, but the sense of community between everyone involved in these exhibitions. Each film took you on a journey themselves but what really warmed my heart was the consistent team efforts, and the transparent element of support.

Denali totally stole the show for me regarding that certain quality. The film embarks on the story of a man’s bond between himself and his dog. By following their journeys together, you can feel their crucial love for one another. One thing that stuck out for me was a line that suggested we, as humans, can learn from our canine friends. That we should greet our loved ones with as much energy and excitement every time they walk through the door. (I also cannot deny, but there were tears being quickly wiped away during the credits before the lights returned to expose everyone and their twinkly downpours.)

Even though Banff celebrates action sports in all its glory, it also does not disregard the dangers imposed. These risks are highlighted at all times and are especially explicit in the Texas horseman feature, Unbranded, Pretty Faces (a film piece on female skiers), and Chasing Niagara. With the audience’s gasps and jaw drops all in sequence during these sudden, death-defying moments, the intensity of reality maximises. Banff reminds you that life is not to be taken for granted, but also does not intend to fear us of our ambitions, but rather to push ourselves to the limits.

Despite it being called Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, there were not as many rock-climbing based showings which I had expected. However, I cannot say I am complaining about that fact. With the range of diverse action sports Banff offers us in their 2016 World Tour, a real eye-opener happens during your time wisely spent at this event.

Heck! It’s even made me want to give mountain biking a real shot! And influenced me to believe I can do whatever I apply myself to, which is true! That’s a real aspect I enjoyed about the Festival, it inspires you. (And I got to sit and be entertained by visuals for the whole day). But rather than binge watching my favourite series within the same amount of time, these films are real stories with real people. And instead of continuing onto the next episode like a true couch potato, I gained the thirst to go explore endorse myself with my outdoor surroundings.

Banff reminds you of what’s important; to attain those magical moments in life, even if it means encountering failures, injuries, and other challenges you may face. That these obstacles can be overcome, lessons are to be learned, and greatness can be achieved in anything you set your sights on.

Balancing herself between look-a-like Ellen Page, the teachings of Sylvia Plath and being known in Birmingham’s music scene, you can often find Bryony in some urban bar. (Probably either writing, reading, or forward-thinking strategies on how to become the next Grimes).