The Banff Mountain Film Festival attracts the finest adventure films from around the world. Although the UK and Ireland tour dates have been rescheduled to autumn, the festival is bringing the adventure right to your home. Five films from across the globe are available to stream, with over 90 minutes of glorious action. While the draw of adventure has never been more real for many of us at home, the films do more than scratch the adventurers’ itch; each provides unique observations and lessons on what it means to be human.
The films are available for streaming at the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour website, and are recommended to be viewed in this order.
SAND IN THE SKY
Reaching deep into the annals of your subconscious, can you conjure any of your ‘first’ memories? Those formless shapes, placeless recollections? Do you think those early experiences shaped your interests and curiosities into adulthood? This was the hope of the directors of Sand in the Sky, from Gnarly Bay films. Eight-month-old Ollie – our delightful protagonist and narrator – recounts, with a precocious enthusiasm for the natural world, a tender dream of adventure and discovery. Through this youthful portal, we transport to a pristine world, unscathed by the cynicism of adulthood. This world is a luscious, verdant place where the slow tide of lolling waves dictates life’s pace; enough time to take in the splendour, and the wonder of this ethereal place between dream and reality. Ollie is kindling a gorgeous appreciation for our environment. Through his dream, we reunite with that childlike sense of wonder and imagination that binds each of us as nature-lovers to the blissful scenes that our world affords.
Our second film pans to the sport of trail running, where ultra-runners train for years to complete gruelling courses. Expertly delivered by REI Films, we follow the story of Mirna Valerio, who is determined to transform the negative energy of an aggressive email into a propellant for her own success in the sport. Her attitude is irresistible – a true force of nature. One by one, she dispenses with archetypical norms of how a person should be or look to reach success. The very same can-do spirit that drives her along the sapping courses of ultra marathons allows her to succeed as a writer, a vlogger, and a mum. This film is a wellspring of inspiration for all walks of life, no matter who you are or how you look.
THE LORAX PROJECT
From Mission Control Collective comes an adventure of vertiginous creativity and determination. In The Lorax Project, six friends attempt to climb ‘The Lorax’, one of the world’s most challenging ascents of Frenchman’s Cap, in western Tasmania, before base jumping back down its rocky face. Set in the ‘sandstone playground’ of the Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, the story is an allegoric ode to the power of determination and a near-religious connection with the wild.
Our narrator explores the psychological differences between climbing and base jumping; the prolonged sequence of focus, agony and triumph of the ascent, and the instant emancipation from fear in that conclusive jump. Eight hours up, eight seconds down. As scenes of mind-boggling base jumps unfurl to satisfy our inner thrill-seeker, the film reveals a story of friendship forged in the magnetism of adventure. Six people, each from different professions and walks of life, come together to conquer the wall of rock, boosted by the uplift of their humour and camaraderie. This is a unique adventure film of a tender, strengthening nature.
THE LAST HONEY HUNTER
National Geographic and the dZi foundation, whose work is empowering communities in eastern Nepal, bring us a tale steeped in mysticism and spirituality. The jungles of Nepal’s Hongu river valley are home to a coveted treasure – a rare, medicinal wild honey protected by a spirit named Rongkemi. Residing high in the mountainsides of Nepal’s most isolated regions, the honey fetches a high price in the markets of Kathmandu. Maule Dhan Rai, ‘the last honey hunter’, is said to be enshrouded from the wrath of Rongkemi by a protective blessing, bestowed upon him through a transformative dream. In this glorious documentary, vivid cinematography guides us through the gloom of enchanting heights, weaving through small subsistence villages that have come to depend on the honey for income. With little more than a rope ladder to ascend hundreds of meters to the bees, every harvest is a delicate ritual. In this earnest vignette of a culture’s spiritual connection to a valuable environmental resource, the story is at once a meditative reminder of our reliance on the natural world, and a plea to respect its fragility. A must-watch for anyone with an interest in culture and the natural world, and Geographical’s pick of the bunch.
On the Swiss alps, you may spy a white silhouette hurtling down the mountainside, a grin as encompassing as the mountainous backdrops beyond. For this is the natural habitat of ‘Snowflake’, a perfectly eccentric Swiss-born skier who has devoted his life to the glory of the slopes. Through his nature-given liberties, he teaches us that there are no restrictions on happiness, and that we should simply do what we enjoy. Any winter sports lover will revel in Snowflake’s joyous and fresh perspective – and if that doesn’t get you, the scenery certainly will.