Documentaries that entertain, enlighten, and inspire are few and far between. The fact that the Banff Mountain Film Festival has managed to find, not one, but 15 films that do all of the above is exactly why it’s become such a firm favourite on the circuit.
Established in Banff, Canada, in 1975, the festival’s films tour the world every Autumn, bringing thrills and chills to cinema-goers from Australia to Antarctica. The UK and Irish leg of the tour runs until mid-November, offering two collections of films (Blue and Red) to discover.
The roster isn’t just about thrill-chasing, though there’s plenty of that. North Shore Betty tells the tale of the awe-inspiring 73-year old mountain biker, Betty Birrell, who has been shredding the trails since she reached her late 40s and shows no sign of slowing down. Free to Run, is the moving account of mountain runner and UN human rights attorney, Stephanie Case, who must fight to find a way forward for the Afghan women of her NGO, Free to Run, while taking on the longest and hardest ultra-trail race of her life.
However, Lapporten Skyline is, to my mind, documentary-making at its very best. The scenery is spectacular, the challenge is suitably daunting, but what elevates the whole endeavour is the camaraderie between the international team who very much embody the phrase “all for one, and one for all.”
The Lapporten Gap is one of the most photographed natural landforms in Sweden. There, between two mountains, is a natural ‘gap’ that forms a gateway to Swedish Lapland. And, it’s there that some of the world’s top highliners plan to erect a two-kilometre long highline, stretching between the snow-capped mountains—with the aim of walking across. If they succeed, they will have set a new world record. Cue unexpected drama, and a roller-coaster of emotion.
Director Emil Sergel crafts his tale with style and subtlety, always knowing when to pull back, and when to go for that all-important action shot. The result is a documentary that you won’t soon forget.
It’s worth nothing that the original cut is 48 minutes long. The 18-minute cut, prepared especially for the festival, is just a small part of the story—but what a story. Enthralling and inspirational.
For more information about the festival’s tour dates, visit: https://www.banff-uk.com/films