Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Virtually Banff

      I'll give this to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. For a couple of nights it broke up a routine that was beginning to feel like life without parole. It's these late fall days when it seems to get dark shortly after lunch. Going out in the evening is verboten of course. There's nothing happening anyway and even my traditional escape, a few hours at the library, has been taken away.

     So I run laps on our dirt lane or do hill repeats in the fields, both possible after dark with a headlamp, even enjoyable when the stars are out and the local barred owl is hooting. But that only uses up an hour at most and then the only thing left is to settle in by the wood stove to read. OK, not exactly cringe worthy suffering but by eight my eyes start to blur and it just seems so early to go to bed. 

     Enter the Banff films. They're only available streamed this year. Normally, after it's November run in the Alberta mountain town, the festival tours to some 305 cities in 20 countries. Locals will remember when Saratoga's Skidmore College hosted the screenings. Then, several years ago, the venue moved north a few miles to SUNY ADK in Queensbury. Credit Mo Coutant and the Glens Falls Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club for breathing new life into the event with sold out shows and lots of enthusiasm. It became a real gathering of the tribe. At least until 2020... 

Promo shot of audience enjoying Banff ... definitely not  at ACC

     Banff got its start back in 1976. The film and book festival focus's on mountain culture, sports and environment. Other mountain towns - Boulder and Telluride come to mind - have launched similar events but Banff seems to be the granddaddy. When a selection of the films toured they were usually shown over a couple of nights in two separate programs. Streaming uses the same format with the Amber and Onyx programs being available separately or as a bundle. Best to get the combined package as it gives you more days to watch. Also makes sense to order it thru the local ADK chapter because they get some of the proceeds to use for their good work.

     Will Banff appeal to everybody? Well... 

     There's a lot of whiz-bang mountain biking, skiing and kayaking. Either big fun or death wish ridiculous depending on your point of view. Several climbing films highlight the close relationships fostered by sharing a rope. Nice, but they can also be scary to watch. My favorite was Voice Above Water with its striking images of 90 year old Wayan, a Balinese fisherman who is so disheartened by plastic in the ocean that he's waging a one man clean-up campaign. A perfect blend of beauty, indignation and inspiration. 


All images from Banff film festival


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