Banff Mountain Film Festival Showcases World’s Best Films About Mountain Sports and Culture


The Banff Mountain Film Festival returned to Hamilton for its lucky 13th consecutive year on Thursday, February 21. The Banff, Alberta, Canada based festival travels annually to central New York as well as all seven continents to bring audiences the world’s best films about mountain sports and culture. This past October, 28 short films were chosen to be part of the traveling film festival. However, only about two hours of film are shown at each location as Banff liaisons work with the host town to chose which films should be shown. For the past five years that duty has fallen to Interim Director of Colgate Outdoor Education Michael Savage.

“I think that [the films we chose] match up with our mission pretty well,” Savage said.

The films shown included mountain biking, white water rafting, skiing and other sports that Outdoor Education offers. Since these were not necessarily the same films shown at other nearby Banff locations such as Hamilton College and Cornell University, the single screening at the Hamilton Theater is typically sold out, and 2013 was no exception. Well before the screening started, people were struggling to find seats inside as the Hamilton Theater was forced to turn people away from the packed theater. The Hamilton Theater certainly offers more space than most locations up the hill, but there are other reasons that Outdoor Education, the official host of the screening, always chooses to show the films downtown.

“I think if we had it on campus it would only be a student event,” Savage said.

Taking a quick look at the audience, it was clear that the Banff Mountain Film Festival is certainly not just for students. While many Colgate students were in attendance, the majority of the audience consisted of Hamiltonians and out-of-towners interested in seeing which award-winning films would be shown. Many people were Banff regulars; the Banff representative who introduced each film would occasionally reference similar films from 10 or 11 years ago.  Although most people will not have the chance to see all 28 Banff films, the 11 films chosen by Savage certainly did not disappoint.

The first film was titled “The Gimp Monkeys” and was much more inspirational than the title suggests. It focused on three friends, each with a missing limb, as they made the first all-disabled ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite national park. This film was perhaps the source of the most inspirational quote of the night: “The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.”

Another short film featured a biker who used abandoned train tracks and factories as his own personal playground. The next film, “The Way Home”, took a step back from all of the adrenaline to explore why only 5 percent of visitors to national parks are African American. Amid all of the adventure of the other films, this short film followed a group of African American tourists as they visited Yosemite and shared their thoughts, providing insight towards how race and experiencing nature are related.

Finally it was time for “Crossing the Ice,” the overall grand prize-winner at Banff. By far the longest film of the night, the 44-minute spectacle featured two Australian adventurers on skis as they attempted to become the first people to travel from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back, completely unassisted. The audience got to know Cas and Jonesy as they suffered through storms and discomfort and persevered, embracing the friendship of a competing Norwegian adventurer who tried to accomplish the seemingly impossible goal alone at the same time as them. The film received the biggest applause of the night, just before intermission.

After intermission, prizes from Banff’s sponsored were raffled off as well as some Colgate-related prizes such as Slices tokens. Then it was back to the outdoors as several short films showed a Jack Russell Terrier who imitates her owner’s mountain biking tricks, an 86-year old mountain man who insists on living in the wilderness and a kayaker who traverses down 80-foot waterfalls. The most humorous film of the night was only two minutes long but featured a man chugging vodka and then skating and sliding across thin ice into the freezing water.

The final film of the night showed an ambitious young mountain climber, Alex Honnold, who traverses mountains without any ropes. You may recognize him from the Citibank commercial in which a man and a woman climb to the top of a giant rock in Utah. The film explored his incredible climbs as well as his struggle to stay out of the limelight.

Each of the films were entertaining in their own right and received a thunderous applause from the sold-out audience. The Hamilton Theater will likely be packed to its limits for the Banff Mountain Film Festival each February for years to come.

Contact Jared Goldsmith at

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