Valley Uprising Wins 2014 Banff Mountain Film Competition Grand Prize

Content courtesy The Banff Centre.

The greatest untold story of American counterculture is that of the Yosemite Valley rock climbers. For 50 years, Yosemite’s cliffs have drawn explorers to venture on the high, lonesome granite. Climbing greats like Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost not only set new standards for climbing hard routes, they pioneered the “dirtbag” lifestyle. Part fact and part attitude, Sender Films takes us on a journey through the history of Yosemite right up to the present and shows why the big walls of this amazing place are still as coveted today as they were 50 years ago. Valley Uprising has won the Grand Prize at the 2014 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

“The mountain culture in which so many of us here are a part of; we are pretty good at telling our stories to each other,” said 2014 jury member Nicolas Brown. “We watch some sick action— and get totally stoked. However, sometimes we are less effective telling our stories to the rest of the world. This film tells an epic tale, giving us larger than life characters whose lives play out on a vast stage. The result is a work that will inspire not just climbers but the world at large.”

Created 39 years ago, the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival has become the premier event of its kind in the world. The Festival showcases the world’s best films, books, and photographs on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment, exploration and adventure, and sport – and attracts the biggest names in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and extreme sports as presenters and speakers. 84 films were screened during the nine-day festival and an international jury awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes in 13 categories.

Category winners for the 2014 Banff Mountain Film Competition include:

Grand Prize—Sponsored by MEC

Valley Uprising
Director: Nick Rosen, Peter Mortimer, Josh Lowell
Producer: Zachary Barr
Production Company: Sender Films

Creative Excellence Award- Sponsored by SOLE

El Sendero Luminoso Director: Renan Ozturk
Producer: Aimee Tetreault
Production Company: Camp4 Collective

Best Film – Exploration and Adventure – Sponsored by MSR

And Then We Swam Director: Ben Finney
Producer: Robb Ellender

Best Film – Mountain Culture Sponsored by Helly Hansen

Tashi & the Monk
Director: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke
Production Company: Pilgrim Films

Best Film – Climbing Sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada

Cerro Torre: A Snowball’s Chance in Hell Director: Thomas Dirnhofer Producer: Philipp Manderla*
Production Company: Red Bull Media House GmbH

Best Film – Mountain Sports- Sponsored by Live Out There

Little Red Bus (Petit Bus Rouge)
Director and Producer: Sébastien Montaz-Rosset
Production Company: Montaz-Rosset Film

Best Film: Snow Sports – Sponsored by Oboz Footwear

The Crash Reel
Director: Lucy  Walker
Producer: Julian Cautherley
Production Company: KP Rides Again LLC

Best Film – Mountain Environment and Natural History – Sponsored by Film Festival Flix

NATURE: Touching the Wild

Director and Producer: David Allen
Production Company: Passion Planet, THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET

Best Short Mountain Film – Sponsored by The North Face

Delta Dawn
Director and Producer: Peter McBride
Production Company: Peter McBride Productions

Best Feature Length Mountain Film – Sponsored by the Town of Banff

Marmato

Director: Mark Grieco
Producer: Stuart Reid
Production Company: Calle Films

Special Jury Mention

Jungwa: The Broken Balance

Director: Stanzin Dorjai Gya, Christiane Mordelet
Producer: Barra Muriel
Production Company: Lato Sensu Productions

People’s Choice Award for Radical Reels – Sponsored by Deuter

Sufferfest 2: Desert Alpine

Director and Producer: Cedar Wright*

People’s Choice Award – Sponsored by Treksta

Mending the Line Director Steve Engman, Producer John Waller. Production Company: Uncage the Soul Productions.

Jury members in 2014 included Swiss journalist and producer Benoît Aymon, multiple award-winning producer and director Nicolas Brown, former Programming Director for the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival Joni Cooper,  American alpinist Mark Synnott and Shirley Vercruysse, Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada.

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is presented by National Geographic and The North Face, and sponsored by Deuter, Bergans of Norway, Clif Bar, Cushe Footwear, Icebreaker Merino and Banff Lake Louise Tourism with support from Mammut, MSR/Mountain Safety Research, PETZL, World Expeditions, Kicking Horse Coffee, The Lake Louise Ski Resort, MEC, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Finding Inspiration at the Banff Mountain Book Festival

Considering the quantity of sold out events this year at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, I think it’s safe to say that it is no longer a best-kept secret, and no longer the ‘little sister’ to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. On a more personal note, the book festival has always been my favourite part of the festivals – not only because it offers a more intimate experience, but also because words are my medium of choice, the way I process information, my lifeline.

As a writer, the Banff Mountain Book Festival encourages me to dig deeper, to find the story really worth telling and to continue sharpening my skills so that perhaps one year it will be me up on that stage presenting my own book. But for now I’m content to learn from others, to absorb from a seat in the audience, and bring the stories of others to you.

I can’t recap the entire book festival, but the events today offered a particularly good mix of topics and styles. They also brought with them lessons we can apply to our own lives, which I’ll summarize here:

The Calling.Barry Blanchard kicked off the with the presentation of his book, The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains. I was familiar with his book, having reviewed it for The Campsite a few weeks ago, but it was refreshing to hear him reading his own words. In fact, the book read better aloud than it did in my head, and listening to Barry gave the stories new life and the audience an opportunity to laugh. It is clear the crowd – a home crowd for Barry – simply loves this man, and that spoke as loud as his words. One thing I learned from Barry, both through his climbing stories and his account of challenges writing the book, is the importance of perseverance. If you eventually want to see something in print, you need to work away at it, letter by letter, word by word.

Paddlenorth.Next, author Jennifer Kingsley presented her book, Paddlenorth – an account of a 54-day, 1100-kilometre journey she made with friends on the Baillie and Back Rivers in Nunavut. While she didn’t intend to write a book about the trip, the experience motivated her to do so. She didn’t reveal too much about her book (I’ll have to read it!), however a few things she said caught my attention. First, she made a comment about how modern travel allows you to get from one destination to another very quickly, but that does not mean that you have caught up emotionally and psychologically. This also ties into a comment she made about returning home from such a voyage: “This is the kind of trip that when I got home, it wouldn’t lie down,” she said. Having been on a few longer stints of travel, I can relate to both of these comments – to needing time to catch up to my destination and needing time to unravel the threads of the experience once I’m home.

Great Bear Wild.Finally, photographer, conservationist, and author of Great Bear Wild, Ian McAllister, took the stand. I was familiar with McAllister’s incredible photographs, just not the stories behind them. Walking the audience through the backstories of his images, McAllister conveyed a deeper understanding of these magnificent creatures. By explaining their contexts through human analogies, I could relate to the wildlife in a way I never had before. I appreciated these stories because these are the creatures and habitats (alongside First Nations communities) under threat due to the plans to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Through McAllister I learned that the Great Bear Rainforest is actually an area that is seeing regeneration and a resurgence of life. It would be a shame to see that compromised. Be sure to check out PacificWild.org for more information on what you can do about that.

The festival doesn’t wrap up until Sunday night, so be sure to check out the Banff Mountain Festivals to snag any remaining tickets.

Keep following along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for dispatches from the field!

Where Are the Women? Pretty Faces Teaser

Feature photo Top of the world, somewhere in Alaska. Photo by Scott Dickerson.

I have attended the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival each year since 2007, save for one year when I was trekking through Nepal. Being the biggest film fest of its kind in the world, the Banff Festival offers a good barometer on a variety of industries, mainly outdoor gear, adventure film, sponsored athletics and publishing. I know for a fact that despite the considerable presence of women in sports, including skiing, they are poorly represented in most of these industries. Ski and snowboard films may show a ‘token female’, but otherwise women are usually left out of the picture.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. It isn’t an accurate representation, for one. It also leaves young girls without positive female role models in the area of outdoor sports, which promotes healthy body image, good self-esteem, and a ‘can do’ attitude. Instead these girls are left flipping through magazines and observing the lives of celebrities as if their representation in the media is actually true. As the mother of a young daughter, I hope she grows up to be inspired by women in a variety of arenas. She doesn’t need to admire them – that can often lead to comparison and a feeling of inferiority – but I do hope she sees all the possibilities for her future.

Lynsey Dyer has created a ski film about women called Pretty Faces, produced by Unicorn Picnic, with the goal of inspiring “girls of all ages to pursue their dreams, walk the path less traveled, and reach their fullest potential, whatever path they choose” (a quote from their Kickstarter campaign). Their Kickstarter campaign also offers some interesting statistics. Despite women’s presence in about 40% of the skiing population and about 30% of adventure sports film viewership, only 14% of athletes in major ski films were female this past season. Of most interest to me, they also say that many girls drop out of sports around the age of 11-15 years. These young teen years are so vulnerable for girls, and if we can give them positive female role models to look up to, I hope they’ll be inspired to stay active and healthy through sports (whatever those sports may be).

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the title of the film, Pretty Faces. I get it: it’s a play on words, describing the mountain faces these women are skiing. But take a good look at the teaser of the film and you’ll see a bunch of, well, pretty faces. Does it take good looks to also be successful in your industry or sport? Or to make it into a ski film? Do we need beauty to sell even the concept of women being capable and feeling empowered? Beauty is a powerful, wonderful thing. But I fear we’re walking down the same worn path if it is being used once again to sell an idea and give it legitimacy.

I’m of course pleased to see an all-women ski film on the film circuit, and I’m all for the goal of inspiring young girls. I hope it has the positive impact the producers are looking for. I hope it comes to the Banff Festival so that the crowd here can benefit from seeing more women represented. Finally, I hope the trend continues and that this is just the beginning.

For more information, head on over to Unicorn Picnic.

Check out the trailer here:

Banff Mountain Festivals: Top 5 Speaker Sessions

Days of staring at movies, slideshows and my computer screen have made me feel a bit dizzy, but it’s all in the name of adventure and excitement at the Banff Mountain Festivals, so it is entirely worth it. I’d be writing (and you’d be reading) forever if I wrote about every aspect of the festivals, so instead I’ve decided to give you my Top 5 Speaker Sessions this time around, in no particular order.

Banff Mountain Festivals: Top 5 Speaker Sessions

1. John Vaillant & Sasha Snow: This was an intriguing conversation between two artists that were inspired by each other’s work. Snow is a filmmaker, who made the award-winning film, Conflict Tiger, about a tiger that hunts a human, and John Vaillant is the author of The Golden Spruce, a book about the felling of a 300 year-old tree by an activist. The two met in Banff back in 2006, where Vaillant found inspiration to write another book on the man-hunting tiger in Snow’s film. He sent Snow a copy of The Golden Spruce as an artistic exchange of sorts, and the rest is history. On Thursday evening, it was a pleasure to hear Vaillant read from his book and to see the trailer of Snow’s film about The Golden Spruce.

Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, speaks at the Banff Mountain Festival on November 5. © Courtesy of The Banff Centre

2. Jon Turk: An eccentric though engaging speaker, author and adventurer Jon Turk presented at this year’s Mountain Book Festival.  He spoke about his book, The Raven’s Gift, which is based on his travels deep into Siberia. With all the confidence in this world, Turk spoke about his encounter with real magic thanks to his visits to a shaman, who introduced him to the dream world. Whether you believed him or not, he had the crowd absolutely riveted and looking at ravens in a different way forever.

3. Greg Mortenson: Need I say more? If someone’s size has anything to do with the size of their heart, Greg Mortenson has the biggest heart in the world. He may be a big guy, but you can tell he’s a teddybear at heart. The founder of the Central Asia Institute and author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, Mortensen spends most of his time away from home educating North Americans about the important of supporting the education of children, and specifically girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  My biggest takeway from his interview: “Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.”

4. Steven Heighton: Canadian author Steven Heighton’s book, Every Lost Country, is based on the true story of the climbers from the Cho Oyo basecamp that witnessed Chinese soldiers shooting at Tibetans attempting to cross over into Nepal. Thought he fictionalizes the story in this novel, his version is equally captivating as the original. I had the privilege of speaking with Heighton over a glass of wine in between programs, and found we have followed similar paths. As a writer, it was inspiring to speak with someone so succesful, prolific and humble. I’ll definitely read his book over the Christmas holidays.

5. Greg Child: As if Greg Child, described by some as the best all-around climber of his generation, wasn’t enough, when he was joined on stage to be interviewed by climber, author and psychologist, Geoff Powter, the combination was positively electric. I admired Child’s humility as a climber, despite all that he has achieved with his life. Powter’s questions were pointed but respectful. I found myself taking notes on his interview skills – definitely the right guy for the job. I was so happy to learn so much about a climber, and writer, from another generation that I really knew nothing about before. That’s what the Banff Mountain Festivals are all about, I think.

Where else can you see this kind of line up of speakers within the span of two days? Nowhere, I’m convinced.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.