Banff Mountain Film Festival returns to State College

Posted on April 12, 2011 

Along with a lot of other people in Centre County, I'm excited about the return of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, an international film competition featuring a variety of films on mountain culture and environmental subjects. This is the eighth year that Banff is coming to State College, and the second year in a row that it will be held at the State Theatre. Beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, a total of 12 films will be screened, and local environmental and conservation groups will distribute information in the State Theatre's upper lobby. There will also be a raffle for mountain gear. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental action group.

The Banff Mountain festival is held annually on the first weekend in November at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. Immediately after the festival in November, a selection of the best films entered in the festival goes on tour, and local host organizations select the films that they feel best represent the interests of their communities.

Among this year's lineup, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing "A Life Ascending," which won the Best Film on Mountain Culture & People’s Choice Award at the Banff festival in November. Directed and produced by Stephen Grynberg, the film tells the story of Ruedi Beglinger, who lives with his wife and two young daughters on a remote glacier in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia and has built a reputation as one of the top mountaineering guides in the world. "A Life Ascending" follows his family’s unique life in the mountains and their journey in the years following a massive avalanche that killed seven people.

Another highlight of this year's festival is "Salt," the first winner of The Banff Centre Award for Creative Excellence. Each year, internationally acclaimed photographer Murray Fredericks ventures to the heart of Lake Eyre, which lies in a remote corner of southern Australia. Murray is forced to brave storms, mud, lightning, and all manner of problems; yet his biggest obstacle is salt, which is inescapable.The film stands apart from the other selections, local Banff coordinator Ron Brourman said, as it is more cerebral and less action-oriented. Also, according to Banff "Road Warrior" Paul Price, the film depicts a landscape that is completely devoid of mountains.  

Last year was the first time I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and I can honestly say I had a great time. I was impressed with the quality of the films and the diversity in style and subject matter. I also think it's great that local nonprofit groups participate in the festival, and attendees have the opportunity to learn about how they can get involved with environmental causes at a grassroots level. Like Brourman said in the article I wrote for Weekender, Banff is a much bigger event than just a film series. And if you're a wimp like me, it's a great way to get a shot of adrenaline, while sitting comfortably in a theater, munching on trail mix.

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