Choose your own adventure: Banff Mountain Film Festival gives community’s outdoors fans taste of world’s wilds

Surfing photographer Chris Burkard shoots footage of cold water surfers in “Arctic Swell: Surfing the Ends of the Earth.”
Surfing photographer Chris Burkard shoots footage of cold water surfers in “Arctic Swell: Surfing the Ends of the Earth.” Photo provided

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is one of the most prestigious outdoor-culture film festivals in the world and is held every fall in Banff, Alberta. The touring version of the festival is an annual event in State College, and will return to the State Theatre this weekend for two nights.

The Canada-based international film competition screens submissions of short films and documentaries from throughout the world about mountain culture, sports and the environment. After the festival in November, a selection of the best films entered goes on tour. The host organization in each tour — here, the Sierra Club Moshannon Group — then chooses a program that reflects the interests of their community.

“I really love the films we are touring this year and feel they are very strong in terms of telling good stories,” said Seana Strain, the world tour coordinator for the Banff Mountain Film Festival. “We aim to try to create a night of films that offers an array of experiences by combining films that feature a range of sports, a range of personalities, and also highlight different cultures and environments.”

Among the films to be shown this year that may be of particular interest to area residents who love to ski and climb are “Afterglow,” featuring night skiing footage and special effects, and “Valley Uprising,” which gives viewers an glimpse into the history of the Yosemite climbing culture.

“Cerro Torre” is a story with lots of twists, a controversial history and some amazing climbing. Austrian sport climber and mountaineer David Lama presents an exciting future for what may be accomplished in Alpine climbing as he takes his technical skills into the big mountains.

“I love watching the care he takes in placing his feet on tiny granite crystals,” Strain said. “The production work on this film is incredible.”

The Banff Centre constantly receives emails that speak of how inspired people are after attending the film festival.

“I’m always moved by the ability the films have to create an incredible community at each show,” Strain said. “The energy in the theater during the films and in the lobby at intermission and post show is invigorating.”

“Tashi and Monk” has been a standout film for the Banff Film tour this year and presents a heartwarming story that is universal among every stop the tour makes across the globe. It’s not a high-adrenaline film but a beautiful story of challenges faced by families in the mountainous regions of Arunachal Pradesh in India. It’s a different approach to showing mountain life and culture and truly shows what humanity is all about and how one can make a massive difference in another person’s life.

“The endeavor the monk has undertaken to help orphaned children from struggling is touching,” Strain said. “His way with troubled children is also enlightening. This very human cultural story really captured me and made me reflect on my privileged live and the courage of the people reaching out to these vulnerable children. The filmmakers set out to tell a compelling story about the vision of a compassionate person, but are thrilled to see the audience response to this film and offers to help the orphanages that have come about after watching the film.”

Julia Martino, a Penn State senior and the media director for a team of students working on a promotional campaign for the festival, has been working tirelessly with the Sierra Club Moshannon Group to promote the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

With the festival, the Sierra Club Moshannon Group hopes to garner interest from the entire State College community.

“Not only are we targeting Penn State students to attend, but also residents from around Centre County as well, as these films highlight the amazing world around us,” Martino said.“I hope they leave inspired to take on their own adventures.”

The film festival also brings in many sponsors, including the popular outdoor apparel and accessory store, Appalachian Outdoors, which will host its annual Spring Expo from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 11. The family-friendly event includes in-store demos, raffle prizes and a chance to meet expert vendor representatives.