By Charlotte Birch.
Saturday night Birmingham’s Town Hall played host to the 2015 BANFF Mountain Film Festival UK Tour, an event showcasing a vast array of adventurous and breathtaking short films. The UK tour offered audiences the chance to watch two different programmes (red or blue) – on this particular evening the audience was treated to the RED programme. The shorts varied visually, aesthetically and particularly in length, but there’s one word that links them all together – inspirational. Over the course of evening, an abundance of characters introduced themselves; every single of one of them proving to be extraordinary.
The festival was kicked off with Touch, a five minute short that follows Jean-Bapitste Chandelier, a seasoned paraglider, on his flying escapes through the some of the most stunning backdrops in Europe, particularly the slopes of Mount Blanc. Not only is the film beautifully shot, it’s filled with bundles of Chandelier’s personality and humour, particularly when he targets the roof of a bus as his landing dock…
Into the Empty Quarter was next in line, following explorers Leon McCarron and Alastair Humphreys (who don’t really know each other) on a rather haphazardly planned adventure into the Empty Quarter. A documentary style short follows these two men as they attempt to follow in the footsteps of their inspiration – travel writer and explorer Wilfred Thesiger. It soon becomes clear that times have changed between Thesiger’s trek and their own, especially as a lack of camels means pulling 300kg of supplies across the sands in a manmade cart. A heart warming insight into the battle between man vs. nature.
Sun Dog has a fantastic back story – the star of the film, two year old Conga, a very active little dog, rebelled against the filmmakers who wanted to stay indoors and avoid the snowstorms. Instead, Conga was intent on running wild through the stunning Patagonian mountain range, tearing through a landscape of untouched snow. Not wanting to miss the moment, the filmmakers captured Conga in his element, proving he was made of stronger stuff than the skiers who hid away indoors. Sun Dog encapsulates the happiness at being free, and highlights the snow can be enjoyed by anybody – human or not.
A personal favourite of the evening was Drawn, a short that both tells a very poignant story and is also aesthetically stunning. It follows the story of climber (and incredible artist) Jeremy Collins, as he embarks on a journey across the four points of the compass after the death of a close friend. Drawn is a documentary following a journey of happiness, determination, sadness and tragedy perfectly accompanied by beautiful illustrations from Collins himself. The film is stark contrast to any of the other billings and highlights just how precious life is.
If anything was observed whilst watching Danny MacAskill: The Ridge it was that Danny MacAskill is a man with nerves of steel. A seasoned trail rider, he decided his next challenge was to take on the Cuillin Ridge – a rather death defying trail range in the Isle of Skye. With shots including a helmet camera, it’s quite likely you’ll be holding your breath throughout the seven minute adventure, and even more likely you’ll gasp as it ends.
Afterglow was perhaps the most ambitious film of the evening, even at only 3 minutes long. This was nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Shot in the tranquillity of the night, a group of skiers attached small LED lights to their snow gear, a raced down the stunning Alaskan slopes, accompanied by only a few coloured LED lights. What followed was a magical display of creativity at its best.
The final two films were both BANFF award winners. Mending The Line was voted People’s Choice Winner, and Sufferfest 2 was voted People’s Choice – Radical Reels winner. Mending The Line follows the story of Frank Moore, an extraordinary gentleman with an extraordinary life. A veteran of WWII, we follow him as he returns to the beaches of Normandy on a quest to rediscover the place he briefly called home, and relive his favourite past time – fly fishing. Tear jerker of the evening, Mending The Line is a love story between a man and wife – Frank narrates the film with a letter he wrote to his wife during the war- and a love story between a man and fishing. This film stays with you long after the evenings ended, leaving the feeling that Frank is one of life’s most remarkable men. Sufferfest 2 sparked a complete contrast to the aforementioned. The final short film follows Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright, as they embark on an adventure to climb 45 of the deserts toughest and most iconic towers. Travelling around mid west America on bicycles (they are not professional cyclists) through a combination a desert winds, snow, rain this pair definitely up to the Sufferfest title. Add to that near impossible climbs, crumbling rocks and fallen bicycles, it actually transcends as a miracle that Honnold and Wright returned in one piece, even more of a miracle? They bought a puppy back with them.
BANFF Mountain Film Festival was a fantastic adrenaline filled showcase of some of the best short films around. Each one showed audiences a different perspective and bought immeasurable talent to the screen – both in front and behind the camera. If there was one thing that could be suggested to add to next years line up it would be to include more women, and we know they’re out there – just look at Cheryl Strayed.