It didn’t take long to identify a recurring theme in the films shown to two consecutive sell-out crowds at this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour stop at the Boulder Theater — suffering.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival is about exceptionalism. It stars adventurers who confront and conquer major obstacles, and many of them set painful and ambitious goals to push the boundaries of what is possible.
These people seek their absolution in “Type 2” fun, as Colorado filmmaker Cedar Wright calls it – the kind of excitement and vigor that morphs mental stress into a stream of endorphins once they can call their mission accomplished.
Endorphin-inducing excitement such as “Sufferfest,” which follows Wright and freeclimber Alex Hannold as they bike more than 750 miles across California and climbed the state’s dozen fourteeners. The fact that they had never once been on anything remotely similar to a bike tour before didn’t stop them. But it certainly didn’t help their well-being, either.
Or watch 25-year-old Norwegian Inge Wegge and his friend Jørn Ranum, 22, spend nine months north of the Arctic Circle at a remote Norwegian beach, building a Hobbit-like dwelling from washed-up trash and ripping their surfboards through walls of ice-cold water. “North of the Sun” won the People’s Choice Award and Grand Prize at the original Banff Mountain Film Festival last fall.
Or follow two Scottish female climbers leave the hills of Britain to take on “El Capitan,” the alpine big-wall mecca in California’s Yosemite National Park, in “Push It.”
Or even take a (bewildered) look at the bunch of Canadians who left virtually all their clothes at home before shooting “Valhalla,” a film about naked skiers that drew the laughs from the audience and closed the festival both nights.
Though a majority of this year’s films featured groups of people pushing the boundaries of the doable in some secluded corner of the globe, craftily captured in crystal-clear high definition, some filmmakers fascinated the audience with a different, more humane approach.
In 2011, Colorado-filmmaker Allison Otto read an article about Elizabeth Hawley, the “Keeper of the Mountain” in Kathmandu, Nepal. Otto set out to shoot a very personal portrait of the legendary American historian who never once in her lifetime climbed a mountain, but logged every expedition on the world’s highest peaks for more than five decades.
“It was hard to keep up with her,” Otto told the audience about the 90-year-old star of her film during a Q&A session after an edit of her feature film was screened Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Since the beginning of the festival in late October and early November, the Banff World Tour has been on the road – a road that will take them to 40 different countries on all seven continents. A total of 400,000 people will watch the films selected from the more than 400 original entries.
They will find themselves stunned, holding their breath, laughing, dreaming and attracted to the untamed beauty of the wild and rugged outdoors.
Nancy Hansen travels with the festival on its world tour, presenting the films to multitudes of outdoor-lovers night after night. She is convinced that she is part of something truly special.
“You’ve either never heard of it, or you come back every year.”
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Lars Gesing at email@example.com