Banff Mountain Film Festival UK Tour

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is touring the UK and Ireland with the best films from 2012 for a fourth year. Last night it visited Whitley Bay and I had to go along to see some of the most inspiring films you can imagine. What better way to spend a Saturday night, then settling into a comfy seat, with a pint, a Cliff Bar and 2.5 hours of award winning, mind blowing films…

The curtains went up and the night kicked off with “The Gimp Monkeys” A story of four legs, five arms and three heads. Or three climbers, pushing the limits of what is possible and climbing Yosemite National Park’s iconic El Captain, the first all-disabled ascent. If you are a climber, or just someone looking for an excuse not to do something, this is a must see film. Witty, funny and humbling, you can do more with one leg and the right attitude than with two legs and the wrong attitude!

Following was the mountain bike film “Strength in Numbers” from Anthill Films and Red Bull Media House. Now I expect a lot of any film from Red Bull Media, and with Strength in Numbers, you aren’t disappointed. Shot over two years, it visits some of Mountain Biking’s most iconic locations, and is a call to action for mountain bikers everywhere to connect regardless of location or language or discipline. Being a shortened tour edit, they missed out what I consider to be one of the best sections of the film; the racing section. Largely because most of it was filmed at Fort William. However the rest of the film is still lovingly shot and goes a long way to show why we ride our bikes, and what it means to us, both this edit and the full edit sends a strange tingling sensation down my spine, you know that sensation that gets you of the sofa and out on your bike? Yep, this is what mountain bike films are meant to do!

Next we had “Flow Hunters” a film I hadn’t seen before, but quickly had my heart in my mouth. Some of the World’s best paddlers experience perhaps a little more risk than they bargained for as they explore New Zealand’s extreme white water. If I close my eyes during a film, it’s never because I’m board and I don’t get scared easily, if you paddle just watch the film, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

“Ernest” a short portrait of one of a vanishing breed of mountain men. Whilst most of us allow our lives to be consumed by electronic gadgets, instant communication and 24 hour news, Ernest just likes to get out in the mountains and teaches survival skills, at age 89. A humble mountain man who cherishes his active life: “I cannot picture myself just sittin’ around doing nothin”.

A mountain film festival isn’t complete without a jaw dropping ski film, and the offering in Whitley Bay was “Being There” In the moment, focused and committed. A little slow to get started, with the first few minutes featuring two massive kickers and a dislocated shoulder, it soon moved to the North of Norway, where there is this whole world of epic skiing, massive lines and huge scary faces to get you stoked for that winter ski trip.

Possibly one of the most anticipated films of the tour and winner of Best Film on Climbing, “Honnold 3.0” is the new scare fest from Alex Honnold with his crazy attempt to do the Yosemite Triple in under 24 hours, 95% of it without ropes. Yep, Honnold is perhaps the boldest solo climber of our generation, and he likes to do things big. After 33 minutes of watching Alex balancing on tiny holds, hundreds of feet up, the Playhouse most likely needed to replace a few seat covers.

For me through, the film I really wanted to see was about two Aussies. Two Aussies who couldn’t ski, but thought it would be a good idea to ski to the South Pole, and back, unsupported, whilst racing against a Norwegian who could ski. I’ve already seen this film twice, but needed to see it again. “Crossing the Ice” is the epic story of two Australians Cas and Jonesy who set out to do what no man has done before. To travel across Antarctica to the South Pole and back again completely unassisted, pulling all their supplies with them. This is a story of true endurance racing, of digging deeper into the human spirt than most people would consider possible. A film about following your heart, pain and suffering whilst still having a laugh along the way. A film all adventure lovers must watch. It scooped the Grand Prize, Best Film on Adventure and People’s Choice at Banff in 2012, which I guess says it all.

To round the evening off, we had the delights of a 4 minute short, completely different to everything else, full of laughs and feel good factor. This low budget film was easily the most original of the night. “Lily Shreds Trailside” features a Jack Russell Terrier and downhill mountain biking in Utah. You are going to have to find this one and watch it yourself! It’s brilliant!

So these eight films perfectly filled a Saturday evening and provide inspiration for another cold and wet British Winter. The Banff Film Festival is touring the UK until April, so should be passing you by. But it’s selling fast with most screenings sold out so far. The programme is slightly different in each venue, but every night looks epic. So if you love the outdoors, adventure and something a little different, check out the Banff Film Festival website, find a date near you and book a seat now!