Banff Mountain Film Festival brings celebration of nature to State College

Just about everything nowadays is taken for granted, or it’s simply ignored, left to fade away over time and eventually disappear into a forgotten footnote. Gary Thornbloom, chairman for the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, has set out to see that this isn’t always the case (especially with regards to Mother Nature) and for the 10th consecutive year has helped to bring the Banff Mountain Film Festival to Centre County.

Now in its 38th year, the Banff Mountain Film Festival is a celebration of all that is wild and out of doors — be that animals, rapids, mountains or man. The State College stop of this touring production features 19 films and shorts (selected from close to 300 total entries) spotlighting subjects such as kayaking, highlining, rock climbing and wildlife.

“This is an international event that has filmmakers come from all over the world,” Thornbloom said. “There’s somewhere around 300 different communities throughout North America that host it and there’s different films every year. The quality is really high and we usually try to pick a broad range of films.”

In addition to a stunning visual experience, the State College iteration of the BMFF also offers a series of workshops. The event promotes the preservation of nature while working with local sponsors and community groups, who will host various information sessions.

“We are looking at it as something that enriches our community and it’s also a fundraiser,” Thornbloom said. “I’m a strong believer in fundraisers that provide something of value to people rather than just asking them to make a donation. People come to State College for a couple of days specifically to attend this festival and to spend time with friends. We want it to be an enjoyable evening that brings the outdoor community together.”

State College is an appropriate community for an event of this ilk. With a vibrant and eager populace surrounded by a lush and lavish landscape, the BMFF is easily able to make itself at home here for the weekend.

“It’s in the middle of some fantastic woodlands and it has some great streams to paddle,” Thornbloom said of the Centre Region. “There’s a really strong outdoor community here, and I think that these kinds of films will appeal to it.”

The array of films and shorts scheduled for the festival are incredible from every perspective. The visual pageantry on display is beyond brilliant, but there is also a well-founded narrative that serves as a strong undercurrent to many of these selections. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in “The Gimp Monkeys,” set to air April 12.

Focusing on three friends, “The Gimp Monkeys” documents the first all-disabled ascent up Yosemite National Park’s 1,800-foot high El Capitan. As powerful as it in inspiring, this eight minute film truly captures the essence of the BMFF and is a must-see for those who plan on attending.

“The films are extremely well appreciated and accepted, and I think that it’s more than just going to see a movie,” Thornbloom said. “You can’t compare it to just going out to see a movie for the night, I mean, people are cheering throughout the films and it’s as much an event as it is to going to see a movie. You’ll find a lot more excitement, a lot more energy here.”

The founders of the BMFF and the Sierra Club Moshannon Group hope the enthusiasm typically displayed at these events strikes a chord with those in attendance.

“We hope the films on the world tour inspire people to enjoy and explore the beautiful woods and waters of Pennsylvania,” Thornbloom said. “We hope they are then motivated to help protect this rich and varied planet.”

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