Mountain Film Festival in the Appalachian Mountains

This weekend two good friends, my wife, and I drove over to Boone, North Carolina for the evening to attend the local screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Farthing Auditorium at Appalachian State University.   The Banff Mountain Film Festival is the largest and oldest film festival for celebrating mountain sports and culture.  The festival takes place in Banff, Alberta, and then a shorter version travels around North America (and the world) for screenings of the best films.  The Boone screening, a two night affair, is supposed to be one of the largest outside of the actual festival in Banff. 

Our road trip was about an hour and ten minutes via Route 91 through Mountain City, Tennessee and up Route 421.  As we went through Trade, Tennessee, we were treated to a setting sun shining directly on snow-capped mountains on the North Carolina side of the state line.  The upper half of the mountains had a nice dusting of fresh snow that looked like someone had dumped powder sugar on them.  Apparently it had been snowing all day in the higher elevations, setting the mood nicely.

Arriving at Farthing Auditorium, the crowds were raucous, and there was a lot of energy anticipating the screening.  We watched five films.  WildWater, Eastern Rises, and The Swiss Machine were the most memorable.  WildWater is about the spiritual aspects of paddling in wild places and the devotion of those who paddle.  The film contained incredible footage, including creek boating in Colorado, rafting in the Grand Canyon, and the massive rapids of the North Fork of the Payette River in Idaho during high water. 

Eastern Rises seemed to be the best liked film of the night.  It documented a bunch of guys who took an incredible fly fishing trip to Kamchatka, Russia.  Kamchatka is one of the most remote areas of the world:  A vast, basically unpopulated peninsula across the Bearing Sea from Alaska and to the north of Japan and China.  In the film these guys fished super remote rivers and streams, many without names.  The trout were huge, and they were rising to go after gigantic custom-tied flies.  The guys’ reverence for trout fishing and the pristine waters they fished came through, and their irreverence towards one another was hilarious.  This is one entertaining movie regardless of whether you are personally into fly fishing. 

The Swiss Machine was an adventure biography of Ueli Steck, an alpinist who is a speed climber.   The film shows Steck climbing in the Himalaya, Yosemite, and in the Alps.  The film leads up to his speed ascent of the north face of the Eiger.  Viewing the steepness of the Eiger face on the big screen almost made me queasy.  The filming shows how dangerous speed climbing can be.  Yet the film is quite inspirational.  Steck’s athleticism and determination are well conveyed for such a shorter film.  The cinematography in the final scene is superb. 

Coming back from the screening, appropriately enough it began to thunder snow on the drive home.  This is in April in Virginia, mind you.  There are additional screenings of the Banff Film Festival in other places this year.  This was the first year I was able to attend the annual festival; if you have a chance to see it sometime, I highly recommend it.  It’s inspirational and definitely makes you want to go get into the outdoors in the mountains.

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