Banff films soar with adventure

The full range of outdoor experiences – from delight to despair and rare wild creatures to the wild life of outdoor adventurers – is coming to Spokane next weekend with the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s World Tour.

Many of the top films screened at the popular Canadian festival that ended last week will be shown Friday, Saturday and next Sunday at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Different films will be presented each night to take advantage of the wide variety of shows this year’s skiing, biking, climbing, paddling, wildlife and mountain culture filmmakers brought to the festival, said Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear.

“The quality of the films continues to improve with new technology and cameras,” he said.

But technology and a good plan can’t force the mountains, rivers and seas to follow the script, he added.

“These movies don’t come out of Hollywood,” Bridgers said. “They come out of the mountains, where the outcome isn’t always the way you want it to be.”

Although he won’t know until later this week exactly which movies will be licensed to show on the World Tour that’s heading to cities around the globe, Bridgers spotted some highlights while attending the festival in Banff, Alberta.

•“Solo,” which won awards at the festival, follows the story of Andrew McAuley, who set out in 2007 to be the first person to kayak from Australia to New Zealand across one of the wildest and loneliest stretches of ocean on Earth.

Thirty days later, New Zealand maritime authorities received his distress call.

“It’s a dramatic story that you have to watch to the end,” Bridgers said.

•Another drama, “Alone On the Wall,” will humble any rock climber, Bridgers said.

“American Alex Honnold, 24, is shown free-soloing grade 5.12-plus Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park,” he said. “Then he heads to Yosemite to solo the north face of Half Dome, scaling 12 pitches in a single afternoon – but not without a gut-wrenching meltdown 1,600 feet above the valley floor.”

•“Committed 2” is a film about a speed-climbing attempt on Annapurna, the world’s 10th-highest peak.

•“Then there’s a completely different type of mountain film called ‘Mont-Blanc Speed Flying,’ a phenomenal 10-minute film done in one shot as skiers with paragliders make a thrilling ride,” Bridgers said.”

•A wildlife film – “Natural World: Snow Leopard, Beyond the Myth” – stood out in the crowd this year, the product of film crews lucking out to find a snow leopard to follow and document its hunting and some surprise encounters.

Off-the-wall short films are always crowd pleasers at the Banff festival and this year is no exception. For example:

•“Mike the Fisherman” follows a man who dons a wetsuit in Yellowstone and follows fish downstream.

•“Ultimate Skiing Showdown” is a hilarious five-minute flurry of hot cross-country ski racers spreading their wings to fly with snowboarders and alpine aerialists.

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