The 2022 Banff Center Mountain Film Festival debuted at Kingsbury Hall on Feb. 22 and ran through Feb. 25, but will eventually visit nine provinces and two territories in its native Canada and 39 U.S. states. The program for each evening bears the charming name of a species of tree: larch, maple, spruce and pine. February 24 Spruce Lineup included six films ranging from six to 49 minutes.
Originally offering acting classes in the Canadian Rockies, the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity was founded in 1933. The Banff Center has since become a leader in the conservation and development of outdoor film with the Banff Center Mountain Film Festival, which began in 1976. Now nearly 50 years later, the festival is taking off with its annual outdoor presentations of filmmaking achievement.
Outdoor film festivals, mountain film festivals, adventure film festivals – call them what you will – are not uncommon in the Mountain West. Many in the region feel a deep connection to geography. These festivals connect local and global communities of outdoor enthusiasts.
The two strongest films of the evening came from Redbull Media House – ‘A Foreign Native’ and ‘Markus Eder’s The Ultimate Run’. ‘A Foreign Native’ followed Austrian skier Fabian Lentsch as he moved to Iran. It was an outdoor movie that was only half about the outdoors. Lentsch’s determination to assimilate painted a sweet story of human interest as he remained in Tehran during the first wave of COVID-19, learning Farsi and the tanbur, a traditional Iranian instrument. At 49 minutes, “A Foreign Native” was the longest film of the night and by far the most memorable.
“Markus Eder’s Ultimate Race” was about as simple as anything from Redbull could get – 10 straight minutes of a pro freeskier doing tricks around Zermatt. That being said, the short was well filmed and spellbinding. Creative touches like Eder skiing in an ice cave and a castle separate “The Ultimate Run” from other editions.
The night began with “Never in the Way,” a six-minute short film by bike messenger Nico Deportago-Cabrera on a solo trip through Arizona. “Never in the Way” was an easy opener for the rest of the lineup, but lacked substance.
The second feature “Deep Roots” came from Red Bull’s Reel Rock series. It followed Indigenous athlete Lonnie Kauk’s mission to connect with his father, climbing legend Ron Kauk. Lonnie Kauk shifted his focus from snowboarding to rock climbing to follow his father’s path of scaling Yosemite’s toughest routes. “Deep Roots” adequately acknowledged Yosemite’s lesser-known Indigenous history, but missed the mark as a re-watchable documentary.
The weakest films were “Izembeck” and “Always Higher”. “Izembeck” looked like a college journal article turned into a 14-minute documentary. That’s not surprising, considering it’s from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Always Higher” followed Quebec diver Lysanne Richard’s record-breaking 22m javelin dive. The short made a solid effort to build tension, but the dive itself was an uninspiring climax. As selective as the festivals can be, Banff was a bit short at Kingsbury on February 24.
The Banff Film Festival continues its world tour with virtual selections and international screenings through spring 2022, which you can follow here.