Riding a bright orange kayak over the edge of a waterfall just made it onto my “Bucket List” – the color is important, so the video camera on the drone can see me from a distance. This insanity will need to be filmed! I want to ice skate when I’m 90, view the world from under the thick ice of a frozen lake, and do the splits on a tightrope, suspended over a gorge.
I have dreams of bikepacking around the world, climbing distant mountains, and outrunning my own limits, fears and hesitations. I’d embrace the travel, and welcome the adventures. In fact, I can’t get these ideas out of my head, after witnessing the 2018 Banff Mountain Film Festival last week, at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts.
The traveling film festival showcases filmmaking that would inspire even the most experienced thrill seekers to take on new and exciting outdoor adventures! Or it scares the living daylights out of them, so they are content to watch the action from the comfort of their seats, in the back row of the local independent theater, or art museum.
Whatever the effect, the series of short films takes viewers all over the world, to share intensely beautiful adventures that you didn’t even know you wanted to go on – until now.
The film festival is heavily endorsed; I can’t imagine these athletes and daredevils would have the time, money, or equipment needed to accomplish all that they do, without sponsorship. The 2 hour showing begins with video clips from the sponsors, who were also giving away goodies to the event attendees, via a raffle.
Oboz Footwear’s brief advertisement had me laughing from the start – “We plant a tree for every pair sold; one million and counting. That’s a lot of F*#^ing Trees!” exclaimed the voiceover. The environmentally conscious company is based out of Bozeman, Montana (Outside + Bozeman = Oboz). They have partnered with Trees for the Future, to plant all of those trees, and they cherish spending time exploring outdoors.
Employees of Oboz are motivated to “lace up daily and explore the 18 million acres of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that surround us. A vast and breathtaking landscape of peaks, valleys and rivers just waiting to be explored on two feet.” (Oboz website)
In the last 5 years, Trees for the Future has made a huge impact, which brings the promise of beautiful, natural spaces for the next generation of extreme hikers and mountain bikers to explore. They have planted 150,228,574 trees, restoring almost 8,000 acres, and changing lives along the way.
“In partnership with Trees for the Future, every Oboz purchase means another tree is planted in your honor to help reduce CO2 and improve biodiversity while creating sustainable sources of crop shade, soil rehabilitation, food, windbreaks, medicine, mudslide control and more for communities that need them. Proof our shoes don’t just feel good on your feet, they make you feel good, too.” (Oboz and Trees for the Future)
Kicking Horse Coffee also sponsored one of the films, and their company slogan – “Wake up, and Kick Ass!” – pretty much summarizes the mindset of the filmmakers, athletes, scientists, environmentalists, and even those in the audience, ready to watch the films. The crew that travels from city to city, to bring the film festival to eager audiences, refer to themselves as “Road Warriors.”
When the Intro Trailer hits the big screen, and you hear the dramatic music, accompanied by images that highlight the stuff of our “Bucket Lists,” viewers know they are in the right place. They find themselves surrounded by likeminded people (from novice adventurer to expert risk-takers), ready to go along on a visual and auditory adventure!
Just watching the films stirs up a certain amount of adrenaline, which makes the experience worth the price of admission. Here are some highlights:
Where the Wild Things Play by Krystle Wright (US – 2017 – 4 min.)
Historically, women have been underrepresented at the festival. Krystle Wright took notice of this, and it upon herself to remedy that. Her 4 minute film, “Where the Wild Things Play,” pokes fun at the dudes preoccupied by sports TV and craft beer at the ski lodge, while the women are out there killing it, in the snow, at the top of a mountain, and sometimes face-first in the dirt.
While they are climbing, running, kayaking and leaping into all that life outdoors has to offer, Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” plays in the background. The film is “an ode to women who spend more time getting after it than swiping right. Whether you’re an adventurous lady, admirer thereof, or have ever invested time belly up at a ski-town bar, this video is guaranteed to crack your smile.” (Banff)
Kilian by Mike Douglas and Anthony Bonnello (Canada – 2016 – 14 min.)
Ultra-distance and mountain runner Kilian Jornet, 29, is featured in this short film, bearing his name. His challenge is to climb 7 daunting summits in one day, all connected on foot, by his running. A friend and fellow runner completed the first 2 summits with him, and then bowed out. Kilian continued on, powered by 4 Snickers bars.
Kilian has conquered Mount Everest twice in one week, with no supplemental oxygen, and no fixed ropes. He’s journeyed to the peaks of Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali and Aconcagua. He reflects on what the experience is like, saying “You don’t want to spend energy on having feelings, so the only thing you can feel is deep satisfaction.” (The Guardian)
In the Banff film, he is very philosophical about his not being able to accomplish the challenge of the 7 summits, after realizing that he’d lost his strength and needed to quit early. Failing 50% of the time, he says, shows motivation. He doesn’t look at not being able to finish as a failure, but as a chance to do it again. He tells the cameraman that he’ll shower, rest, and do it again tomorrow.
“I think my big moment is always tomorrow.”
Why by Hugo Clouzeau (France – 2016 – 7 min.)
“What makes people chase danger? This clip pairs insane kayaking with philosophy. What’s not the like? Many have attempted to shed light on the reasons why some of us purposefully fling ourselves in the path of danger. For some, it’s pure escapism. For others, it’s about the adrenaline.” (Redbull Australia)
Consider the state of mind of an adventure kayaker, as he climbs into the kayak, knowing he’s about to navigate to the edge of a waterfall, where he’ll glide over the edge, riding the wall of water to the bottom. His helmet is secure, his life jacket is fastened. He carries the skills he needs with him – he’s done this successfully before.
And yet there’s a moment of hesitation, a moment of not wanting to go through with it this time, a moment of pause, of questioning, of reason. Although he could turn his kayak toward the shore, he does not. In a blink he’s at the waterfall’s edge, and it’s roaring. And he’s roaring along with it, on an adrenaline high.
It’s not immediately clear whether the title of the film is a question, or a statement of why. The voiceover projects that “the answer is at the bottom.” The film festival’s host for the night wraps up this film with a simple question: Why not?
The Frozen Road by Ben Page (United Kingdom – 2017 – 24 min.)
“Go solo,” the background music croons, “I’ll make my way home. I’ll make my way.” Whether it’s romantic solitude or a living nightmare, Ben Page isn’t the first adventure seeker to go solo. “Any man, who is a man, can travel alone,” Jack London asserted. Page calls it a chance to feel small, and gain a sense of life, where everything falls into place.
With three years of solo biking behind him, traveling across the globe, Page began the lengthy and involved solo project of editing hours and hours of video footage. Just one week after returning home, he told Mighty Goods, a backpack, luggage and handbag company claiming to offer the ultimate bags, that he hoped the future would bring a chance to pursue adventure film making and photography.
His stint through the Canadian Artic, which evolved into his film The Frozen Road, brought him that accomplishment. Condensing the physical toil and the emotional trials into a 24 minute film, Page’s accomplishments and philosophical reflections brought the Banff Film Festival to a close. His beard frozen with ice crystals, and his spirit struggling to continue on, he pushes through.
Page spent a lot of time riding toward or past his camera, his constant companion, to achieve the footage. He takes viewers along, admitting that he may have gotten in over his head. There are moments that he just didn’t want to be there, and it’s an effort to keep a positive mind about the trip.
Proud of his solo accomplishment, be admits… “but perhaps finish lines are better shared….” Through the Banff film festival, he does just that.
Join me on my next adventure,
Other Festival Films (not discussed here):
Johanna by Ian Derry (United Kingdom – 2016 – 4 min.)
DugOut [Tour Edit] by Benjamin Sadd (United Kingdom – 2017 – 41 min.)
Mammoth by Grant Slater (US – 2017 – 26 min.)
Edges by Katie Stjernholm (US – 2016 – 9 min.)
Banff Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1S1No9JL4k
Wexner Center for the Arts: https://wexarts.org/
Redbull Australia – Why (video): https://www.redbull.com/au-en/chase-danger-why
Ben Page’s Year Long Adventure: https://mightygoods.com/adventurer-ben-page/
REI Co-Op – “Krystle Wright: The Nomadic Filmmaker Behind “Where the Wild Things Play”: https://www.rei.com/blog/uncategorized/krystle-wright-the-nomadic-filmmaker-behind-where-the-wild-things-play
Oboz (Our Story): https://obozfootwear.com/our-story
Trees for the Future: http://trees.org/earthday2018/
“Where the Wild Things Play”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gojOJwYwFfM