Friday, December 16, 2011

Film picks for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Huntsville, Jan. 24 & 25

Every year, I comment on how difficult it was to pick the films for the two nights we present the BMFF World Tour at the Algonquin Theatre in beautiful downtown Huntsville. Always one to be consistent, I will say it again: it was really hard to pick this year's films! This year we cover big mountain skiing (in several forms), rock climbing in remote deserts, a walk up the West Coast, kids climbing, kayak adventure, the water problem, mountaineering drama, unreal exploration and even trained cats.  As always, I recommend that you plan on attending both nights. Remember, if you go to both shows and save your ticket stubs, you can receive a one-time discount of 15 % on any regularly priced item at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or Oxtongue Lake.

Tickets are available and already selling. I should point out that Algonquin Theatre tickets are nicely sized to fit in a Christmas stocking, so if you need a last minute gift for the adventurer on your list, they are just a mouse click away.

Thanks to Seana Strain and Charla Sharpe Tomlinson of the BMFF for their assistance in planning this year's program. Tuesday night has a total of two hours and 10 minutes of films and Wednesday is a bit shorter, at two hours even. There will be an intermission and great door prizes! As usual, there is no particular theme for each night. A few films have "coarse language" warnings, which are noted below. Consider yourselves warned!

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Showtime: 7:30 PM.
Get tickets by clicking here.

All.I.Can: The Short Cut (special edit for Banff Tour)
Award at 2011 BMFF: Best Feature-length Mountain Film, sponsored by Town of Banff
Directed by: Dave Mossop, Eric Crossland

Film Synopsis: Stunning time-lapse sequences, creative visuals, great skiers, and deep powder are highlights of this excerpt from the award-winning feature film that looks at snow sports and the environment.

Audience Feedback:
- funny, great ski footage
- beautiful cinematography and local interest.

-amazing skiing and magnificent filming

Jury Comments:
- When I first saw the work of these film makers a few years ago I knew they were on to something. This year’s winner has continued to evolve and excel in cinematography, taking over two years to shoot this film on six continents. By combining thought provoking issues with mind-blowing action, this film captures the essence of big mountain skiing as it exists today.

Towers of the Ennedi
Directed and produced by: Renan Ozturk

Film Synopsis: The Ennedi Desert of Chad is a hot, sand-scoured and unfriendly place. But from its vast belly rise clusters of breathtakingly lovely spires, towers, and rock formations. Veteran climber Mark Synnott – known more for his far-flung adventures than his technical accomplishments – brings young climbing stars Alex Honnold and James Pearson to the Ennedi to explore its untouched landscapes.
 Audience Feedback:
- This film is a classic "travel to the middle of nowhere to find the coolest climbing ever” type of film! In addition, it is enhanced by the filmmaker’s artwork of the places and people in their journey and then topped off with the well known young gun in free soloing climbing, Alex Honnold. A solid climbing adventure into the beautiful Ennedi Desert, a place that few will ever go and few will ever see. 

Award at 2011 BMFF: Best Film - Exploration and Adventure, sponsored by Nemo USA
Directed and produced by: Ben Stookesbury

Classification: Parental guidance – coarse language

Film Synopsis: “Kadoma” is the nickname for Hendri Coetzee, a legendary South African kayaker who is known for exploring some of Africa’s wildest rivers. In December 2010, American pro kayakers Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesbury followed Coetzee into the Democratic Republic of Congo for a first descent of the dangerous Lukuga River. Seven weeks into the expedition, tragedy struck.

Audience Feedback:
- A kayaking film that keeps the audience engaged all the way through and finishes with power and reverence.
- Heavy but well done. Amazing images, great story and cultural impact.
- Very enjoyable and well produced. An emotional story.
- Showed humility and serious consequences dealt with in an honest way.
- I was on the edge 10 minutes into the film and it never let up! Historical, cultural, geography..sad but amazing story. What a life!
- beautiful portrait of a real adventurer, great sense of discovery, true exploration

Jury Comments:
- The definition of exploration is facing the unknown with courage and integrity. The winning film this category has plenty of both. From the suspenseful opening scene, through its strong character development, to its final tragic conclusion, this haunting film simply stays with you.

The Man and the Mammoth
Directed by: Callum Peterson

Film Synopsis: A caveman discovers skiing, thanks to his new friendship with a woolly mammoth.

Audience Feedback:
- very clever
- loved it
- fun, well done

Journey on the Wild Coast (special edit for Banff Tour)  
Award at 2011 BMFF: Special Jury Mention
Directed and produced by: Greg Chaney

Classification: Parental Guidance – coarse language, nudity

Film Synopsis: A young married couple with a passion for adventure turn their camera on themselves, even in their weakest moments, as they attempt to walk, paddle and ski under their own power from Seattle to the Aleutians. Filmed over the period of a grueling year, this film reveals the rugged beauty of the wild northwest coast of North America – and the true meaning of intrepid.

Audience Feedback:
- pound for pound, this is packed with true adventure
- wow- what an adventure! Nothing seemed to matter to them.
- great, “homemade feel”, endearing and kind of quirky couple

- very grassroots, ...a remarkable journey

Jury Comments:

-…a rather unique and off-beat film. The protagonists probably made this film the way they conducted their epic expedition...without thinking of what they were doing! While this is not necessarily the way to make a good film, it certainly brought an authenticity and simplicity that moved the jury. More than an extreme winter adventure film, this film celebrates the ultimate life

Reel Rock: Origins – Obe & Ashima
Directed and produced by: Josh Lowell

Film Synopsis: There’s a nine-year-old girl from New York City taking the bouldering world by storm, and her name is Ashima Shiraishi. Guided by her coach and former bouldering star Obe Carrion, this tiny master is crushing competitions and raising the bar for her peers. A trip to the bouldering mecca of Hueco Tanks provides a glimpse of the past for Obe and the start of amazing new adventures for Ashima.

Audience, Host, and Staff Feedback:
- This little girl is the star of the tour this year! She will win your heart and her coach’s passion and belief in her will steal your heart a second time. A great story whether you are a climber or not.
- The little girl rock climber [Reel Rock: Obe & Ashima] was wonderful!
- loved this one - all fell in love with Ashima
- What a team! Inspiring!
- touching, beautiful, inspiring – great for kids!
- Cute, amazing, innocent, wow
- So good!

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. Showtime: 7:30 PM.
Get tickets by clicking here.

The Freedom Chair 
Award at 2011 BMFF: Best Film - Mountain Sports, Sponsored by Live Out There
Directed and produced by: Mike Douglas
Classification: General – coarse language

Film Synopsis: Josh Dueck was an aspiring skier and coach until a ski accident in 2004 changed his life for good. Despite his comeback and success in the world of competitive sit-skiing, he wasn't content. Josh's dream is to tackle the backcountry and the steepest and wildest mountains in the world – and with his infectious outlook, he may just catch his dream.

Audience, Host, and Staff Feedback:
- This is an inspiring story that has broad appeal for any audience, particularly the younger crowd.
- I think it's just a really well done film. Inspiring, funny, great action.
- I thought the Freedom Chair was a very moving and inspirational movie.
- Great story, great guy. Good cinematography. Made me smile.
- nice portrait of the man…beautiful shots
- awesome!

Jury Comments:

- This year’s winner exemplifies the sheer power of will and passion. Its spirit is infectious and leads all of us to look inside ourselves and dig deeper to find meaning in our lives and to pursue our dreams, no matter what hurdles we might have to surmount. 

Blue Obsession 
Directed by: Alan Gordon, Jordan Halland

Film Synopsis: The beautiful and ever-changing icefalls of Alaskan glaciers provide a stunning setting for some unusual ice climbing adventures.
Audience Feedback:
- This is beautiful and stunning look at the blue world of glacial ice in a local climber’s backyard in Alaska. An ice climbing film that has broad appeal because of the excellent visual imagery. 
- Great film, beautiful images.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan: The Last Frontier 
Award at 2011 BMFF: People’s Choice Award, Sponsored by V.I.O.
Directed by: Tim Cope

Film Synopsis: On an epic journey of truly historic proportions, Australian Tim Cope, his band of horses, and his dog Tigon travel overland 10,000 km from Mongolia to Hungary, following the footsteps of legendary warrior and nomad Genghis Khan. Cope visits distant parts of the world rarely seen, places on the cusp of modernity yet proud of nomadic traditions. The Last Frontier captures the culmination of his stunning three-year journey, the crossing of the Carpathian Mountains.
Audience Feedback:
- This film is powerful and enchanting story that is well told by the filmmaker himself.
-Well received, funny, endearing.
- A beautiful story filled with amazing adventures and people. 

Awards at 2011 BMFF: Grand Prize – Sponsored by Mountain Equipment Co-op; Best Film – Climbing, Sponsored by Alpine Club of Canada; Audio Post-production scholarship, provided by The Banff Centre
Directed and produced by: Anson Fogel
Classification: Parental guidance – coarse language

Film Synopsis: Experience Gasherbrum II in the middle of a deep, dark winter as seen from the raw, honest perspective of alpinist Cory Richard’s camera. This film deftly captures the interwoven roles of pain, fear, and doubt – and reveals a harrowing descent that amplifies their isolation and exposure.

Audience Feedback:
- This film is raw, edgy and powerful. It isn’t the usual climbing film focusing on the logistics and personalities of the climb and climbers, but more an internal dialogue of a climbers’ regrets, fears, pain & doubt while he tackles a peak with two friends in the middle of the winter.  There is good reason why it won Grand Prize!
- emotionally beautiful, amazing
- wow

Jury Comments:
- We were awed by this film. Its sensitivity, humility, great storytelling and technical achievement. - Mountains teach a climber humility. They are an arena of boundless emotions and the loneliness of man in the face of nature's power can be frightening. The icy hand of God seizes our hearts and ignites the will to survive in conditions where no one has the right to exist. As U2 once said "through the storm we reach the shore".
- The audio post production work for this film creates and seamlessly combines the big, harsh alpine environment with the intimate, claustrophobic, first-person story-telling that makes it possible to truly see, hear and *feel* "COLD." 

Seasons: Fall
Directed and produced by: Skip Armstrong

Film Synopsis: Deep canyons with steep, spring-fed creeks provide Kate Wagner with a soul-session in this paddling paradise.
Audience Feedback:
- beautifully filmed, mellow
- woman kayaking! Short, sweet, beautiful fall river scenery, love how she says she is “dancing” down the river and the music is in ¾ time, a waltz.
- nice, short, strong, beautiful cinematography

Ski Bums Never Die 
Directed by: Eric Crosland

Film Synopsis: What does it take to be a ski bum? An unending dedication to powder skiing? The ability to do anything in your ski boots? A lifelong quest for deep snow? Find out with this unusual and inspiring band of skiers in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.
Audience Feedback:
- This short upbeat film is refreshing and surprising in that the age of skiers is hard to believe…really 20 year olds trapped in older peoples’ bodies...
- super appreciative of this one
-it’s hugely inspirational to see this group of 60 and 70 year old ski bums in British Columbia ripping it up, hiking for turns and generally having a lot of fun.
- I want to be like them when I grow up.
- What a joyous group of people. Their love of skiing is what keeps them young. BRAVO!
- These guys were easily more inspirational than anything else I have seen lately….I can only hope I will be in half of the shape and having half of the fun these guys are once I am their age.
- my retirement plan just changed from dying of boredom in Florida to skiing the &%#$ out of every mountain until I can't walk anymore... 

Chasing Water 
Award at 2011 BMFF: Best Short Mountain Film, Sponsored by The North Face
Directed by: Peter McBride

Film Synopsis: Pete McBride grew up on a ranch in Western Colorado, a child of the Colorado River. After a life spent visiting other countries to tell stories as a National Geographic photojournalist, in 2008 Pete decided to follow the water from his family’s ranch to see where it ends up. This is the story of Pete’s journey, and a story about the lifeblood of the American West.

Audience Feedback:
-  a very well rounded and powerful environmental film...
- excellent, poignant – a “must see” on the environment
- compelling
- beautifully photographed, nice personal essay, nice use of stills
- stunning imagery, poetic script, compelling score that enhanced the emotional content of the film. Very enjoyable and thought-provoking
- beautiful imagery; excellent narration. Succinct, simple story well told
- story flows coherently and seamlessly. Stunning photography; images carry the story beautifully
Jury Comments:
- The award goes to a film that tells a deeply personal story of a man’s journey of discovery. His simple question delicately expands into a broader issue, delivering a strong and sensible awareness on nature preservation. This film succeeds thanks to perfect mastering of the art of story-telling.

C.A.R.C.A.Directed and produced by: Adam Bailey
Film Synopsis: One man's quest to revolutionize the world of animal avalanche rescue.
Audience, Host, and Staff Feedback:
- And I loved CARCA!! even looked up their website...a great way to end the night.
- lots of laughs - talked about it after
- good, humourous take on mountain rescue
- entertaining, great spoof idea well executed