A little bit of Canada comes to Colorado

Banff Mountain Film Festival to play the Centennial State

"Ruin and Rose"
Matchstick Productions

Film festivals tend to stay put. Imagine how confusing it would be if the Cannes Film Festival was suddenly relocated to Bordeaux? What if one year the Boulder International Film Festival was held in downtown Denver and the Telluride Film Festival decided to move up to Longs Peak? That would certainly throw them for a loop. Each festival has its own special identity, and location is as much a part of that identity as is the programming.

But what if the identity of the festival is the about the restless spirit of exploration and adventure? Of doing things not because they are easy, but because they are hard? The movies that play these kinds of festivals are about active people looking for a little more elbow room and what the world looks like from that rock over there. These movies move and the festivals ought to match that spirit.

That is true in every possible way with the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which will play multiple dates in multiple cities around the Centennial State starting February 24.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is one of the most prestigious mountain film festivals to travel the globe, making visits to 450 communities in 40 countries.

Banff begins its journey every autumn in Banff, Alberta, Canada with an extensive program that tackles mountains from every direction. After playing Banff, the festival then sets off on a yearlong tour where each host city picks their own lineup from the broad programming. The idea is that each venue exhibits the movies that best fit their audience. For programmers and audience members alike, it’s “choose your own adventure” in film festival form.

And though each venue’s lineup will differ slightly, the overall intent of the Banff Mountain Film Festival is to highlight unfamiliar landscapes, unsung adventurers and remote cultures. Are you itching to get out there and do something different? Here are a variety of movies designed to show you a few paths — some familiar, others less so — several challenges and some quirky individuals to consider and inspire you.

Take Poumaka (directed by Andy Mann and Keith Ladzinski from Boulder-based 3 Strings Productions), a 14-minute film that documents a V13 climb up a tower that juts out of the muggy Polynesian jungles of Ua Pou.

Mike Libecki and Angie Payne’s ascent up the tower’s face is plagued by wind, rain, loose flora and a heck of a lot of mud that constantly frustrates them.

“Blood, sweat and tears,” Libecki says to the camera after a fall scrapes his knees. “Well, there haven’t been tears yet.”

“Uh, yeah there has,” Payne counters.

There aren’t many tears in Ace and the Desert Dog (directed by Brendan Leonard, Forest Woodward, Stefan Hunt), a 9-minute film about a photographer and writer, Ace Kvale, and Genghis, an Australian cattle dog that Kvale attributes his writing too.

Ace and the Desert Dog Forest Woodward

Ace and the Desert Dog is a short and sweet movie about the 60-day backpacking trip Kvale and Genghis undertake in honor of Kvale’s 60th birthday. The result is cheeky and light, but with the heartfelt message to slow down, take a look around and play when you can.

There is nothing slow about DreamRide (directed by Ryan Gibb), a breathtaking 5-minute plunge into the beauty and wonders of Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington.

The rider is Mike Hopkins, who apparently feels comfortable in any climate and geography as long as his Diamondback bike is nestled between his legs. The narration is Graham Tracey, whose intoned voice brings gravitas to this stream-of-consciousness ride through the West, immaculately photographed and expertly edited.

DreamRide’s jaw-dropping photography is matched only by the impressive images of the freeskiers who feature in Ruin & Rose (directed by Ben Sturgulewski). The film is an ambitious project: one where children in the near future play in a surreal and apocalyptic wasteland devoid of water while dreaming of a time where brave skiers carved blanketed slopes of white.

Ruin & Rose is a movie heavily indebted to the work of the narrative filmmaker Terrence Malick, as is Iran: A Skier’s Journey (directed by Jordan Manley). Much like DreamRide, both Ruin & Rose and A Skier’s Journey utilize rapid-fire editing, slow-motion photography and free association to create hallucinatory viewing experiences designed to speak to the yen inside each individual viewer more than conveying a simple and direct message in standard documentary fashion. Banff features those films too — The Perfect Flight, When We Were Knights, Metronomic are but a few examples. When these two types of movies are coupled together, the Banff Mountain Film Festival imparts both the underlying impulse and the physical exertion required of an adventurer. Film festivals aren’t just places to go and sit in the dark, they are also where one can get a shot of inspiration and encouragement to get out there and move.

The lineup playing Colorado will vary slightly from venue to venue, but with roughly 17 films — five of which feature Coloradans — Banff makes its way across the state starting on February 24 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins (Feb. 24–26) before moving on to the Rotary Club in Grand Junction (Feb. 25–26); Ute Mountaineering in Aspen (Feb. 27); the Boulder Theater, sponsored by the Access Fund (Feb. 28–March 1); The Paramount Theatre in Denver (March 2–4); Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (March 3); Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs (March 7–8); Crested Butte Search and Rescue (March 10–11), and finally wrapping up at Rocky Mountain Wild & San Juan Citizens Alliance in Durango (March 11).

Information, events and tickets of the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour can be found on their website, banffcentre.ca/banffmountainfestival/tour.

The Boulder stop is sponsored by the Access Fund, an organization dedicated to helping climbers and keeping climbing areas open. Learn more about them at accessfund.org.