With the recent UK box office success of white-knuckle climbing documentary Free Solo, there has never been a better time to explore some of the most dangerous climbs in the world from the comfort and safety of your theatre seat. From the tale of an 11-year-old who performs death-defying tricks and backflips off cliffs to an intense climbing rivalry told through unique stop-motion animation, each of the seven films shown on the night will explore what pushes people to do such amazing feats, and celebrate the risks that filmmakers take to capture seemingly impossible footage.
Each film shown as part of the UK leg of the world tour has been chosen from those submitted to the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival, which takes place every November in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s a great chance to see high-quality shorts films where they belong, on the big screen.
A further tour of eight more films from the festival will follow later in the year, also showing at the King’s on April 2nd.
Strong Island spoke to Tour Coordinator Rosie Fuller to get a sense of what to expect from the night, and why these festival tour has had such enduring appeal.
The tour has grown in popularity in the UK over the last ten years. What’s the history of the festival?
The UK & Ireland Tour comes from the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, which is the mothership festival if you like. It takes place every November in the town of Banff, and it’s the world’s most prestigious mountain festival – anyone who’s into the mountains, adventure and film-making wants to enter their film at Banff.
What are your highlights from the films being shown this year?
I love This Mountain Life, about a mother and daughter team who embark on a six-month ski journey through the ferocious winter wilderness of British Columbia. There’s wild, stunning scenery, and it paints a portrait of the human passion for adventure.
What’s the process for choosing the films?
We look for stunning cinematography, but we also like to get behind the psyche of the people doing these incredible adventures – they are human stories, as well as mesmerising footage of high adrenaline adventure. We also look for a mixture of films in terms of length (our films range from five minutes long until about 40); the activities covered and the destinations they explore.
A lot of people who’ve come to see the tour in the UK over the last decade are, presumably, non-climbers. What keeps these people coming back?
The films aren’t just about climbing and mountains, they include other adventures and activities too, this year such as running and mountain biking. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a mountain range nearby, or aren’t an extreme adventurer – you definitely don’t have to have rowed across an ocean or climbed Everest to enjoy the films.
What do you hope to achieve by showing these films?
We hope to inspire people to get out and get some fresh air in their faces and to love being out in the outdoors. And to push their boundaries in some way – perhaps to run further than normal, or to climb a new hill – or even to row across an ocean.
Finally, Documentaries are really growing in popularity at the moment, both on TV services like Netflix and on the big screen. What effect does the popularity of such films in wider cinema have on the tour?
It’s great news for us if even more people are becoming interested in adventure documentaries, and a night at the Banff tour is very different from a standard night at the cinema. We usually show the tour in theatres rather than cinemas to make the atmosphere more special, and The King’s Theatre in Portsmouth is a perfect example of this – it’s a magnificent venue, it feels like you’re stepping into the past – far more magical than a trip to a regular cinema. The films are all introduced by a compere, and we have a prize draw after the interval for lots of outdoorsy goodies too, so there’s a real festival atmosphere and a sense of community – something I don’t think you get from Netflix or a normal trip to the cinema.
The “Red” film selection from the Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour will be showing at the King’s Theatre on February 13th 2019 at 7.30pm. The “Blue” selection will show at the same venue on April 2nd 2019 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available for both events from the website which can be found below.
Written by Andrew Galvin