Media Release

November 9, 2008
High-resolution images

Banff Mountain Film Festival Grand Prize winner searches for vanishing culture

The Last Nomads, a film that tracks Canadian linguist Ian Mackenzie deep into the endangered Borneo rain forest in search of one of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer cultures, has won the Grand Prize at the 2008 Banff Mountain Film Festival. Produced and directed by Andrew Gregg, the film follows Mackenzie, who has spent years trying to finish a dictionary of the vanishing language of the Penan people. It was the scientist’s passion and single-minded devotion to this unique project that swung the Film Festival jury in its favour, and was one of many films awarded this year that bring audiences into little-seen cultures and environments.

”This is beautifully and sensitively crafted film that delivers a strong message without being evangelical, weaving Mackenzie’s views with a look at a disappearing world on the edge of an insatiably encroaching world,” says jury member Brian Hall.

Gonzalo Arijón’s remarkable full-length documentary, Stranded, was selected as the Best Feature-Length Mountain Film. Working with a story seemingly already well-told, Arijón finds new depths in the visceral story of the Uruguayan rugby team, survivors of a high-altitude plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Jury member Christian Trommsdorff calls the film “completely authentic.”

U.K.filmmakers Dave Brown and Paul Diffley won both the award for Best Film on Climbing for Committed 2: Grit Kids, and the Best Short Mountain Film for If You’re Not Falling. Jury member Jim Donini says about Grit Kids, “Even for a jaded climber like me, the film made my palms sweat. It’s always difficult for a filmmaker to make a climb look as difficult as we know it is, but this film pulled it off.”

Following Canadian climber Sonnie Trotter to Scotland, If You’re Not Falling traces his climb up the phenomenally difficult Dumbarton Rock northwest of Glasgow. Pared away to the essential elements of the climb, the film manages to tell a whole story of desire, failure, and ultimate triumph in eight minutes.

The award for Best Film on Mountain Culture went to Tracking the White Reindeer, by producer Manuel Catteau and director Hamid Sardar. Like The Last Nomads, this film discovers a remote and ancient way of life, journeying onto the plains of northern Mongolia, where the Tsaatan people rely completely on the reindeer for their survival. “Beautifully shot and edited, this film takes us into the lives of a group of people who are little known to the outside world,” says jury member Patrick McCloskey.

Producer Tom Synnatzschke and director Jan Haft investigate, up close, in time lapse, and at a distance, what appears to be a very simple natural environment in The Meadow. Winner of the Best Film on Mountain Environment, the film investigates, as thoroughly as possible and in high definition, the inner workings of a mountain meadow.

”This beautifully crafted film shows the origin of a meadow following the last ice age, its evolution through the present day, and the impending threat of present agricultural practice,” says jury member Jim Donini. “Great cinematography has the power to take the commonplace meadow and bring to life the exquisite and dynamic diversity of its flora and fauna.”

Director Jens Hoffman won the award for Best Film on Mountain Sport, taking home an award from the Festival for the third year in a row. This year, Journey to the Center, produced by Iiro Seppanen and Jeb Corliss, follows three world-class BASE jumpers deep into Tian Keng, a mist-shrouded, half-mile-deep natural pit in the mountains of China. “This film conveyed what it is really like to participate in an extreme sport, and the real emotions of athletes, without exaggerating,” says jury member Christian Trommsdorff. “It shows that they’re human. It’s not just a film about an ego trip.”

For 2008, the jury also chose to give three Special Jury Awards, one to the Canadian feature documentary Saving Luna, by director Michael Parfit and producer/director Suzanne Chisholm. “Every now and then you see a film in which you are so impressed by the sheer dedication of the filmmakers to getting their story out,” says McCloskey. “Saving Luna is one such film.” Another Special Jury Award went to the mountain biking film Seasons, produced by Jamie Houssian, which Hall described as “fantastic footage of a fast-moving sport.” The third award went to mountaineering film Psyche: Patagonia Winter by director/producer Alastair Lee, for the sheer endurance needed to complete the film in what the jury describes as “appalling conditions.”

The People’s Choice Award went to Red Gold, directed by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel. The People’s Choice Award for Radical Reels went to Crux, directed by Alexander Lavigne and produced by Ryan Leech.

The Audio Post Production Award, chosen by Banff Centre Audio program alumnus and Academy Award-winning sound editor Mark Willsher, was given to Committed 2: Grit Kids, with special recognition to the soundtrack of The Meadow. The award goes annually to a film finalist, to assist with producing surround DVD soundtracks, in the form of $10,000 in post production studio time and expertise at The Banff Centre.

The 2008 Banff Mountain Film Festival jury included Spanish sport climber Josune Bereziartu, climber and American Alpine Club president Jim Donini, British climber, guide, and film production manager Brian Hall, Canmore, Alberta-based filmmaker Patrick McCloskey, and French mountaineer Christian Trommsdorff.

Founded in 1976, the Banff Mountain Film Festival has become the biggest and best-known mountain film festival in the world. Accompanied by the Banff Mountain Book Festival, it is held annually at The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Following the festival, films are selected for the popular Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which takes Banff films on a circuit around the globe.

Award Sponsors:

  • The $4000 Banff Mountain Film Festival Grand Prize award is sponsored by Mountain Equipment Co-op.
  • The Best Film on Mountain Environment Award ($2000) is sponsored by Patagonia.
  • The award for Best Film on Climbing ($2000) is sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada.
  • The Best Film on Mountain Sport Award ($2000) is sponsored by the Western State College of Colorado.
  • The Best Short Mountain Film Award ($2000) is sponsored by Mountain Hardwear.
  • The Best Film on Mountain Culture Award ($2000) is sponsored by PETZL.
  • The Best Feature-length Mountain Film Award ($2000) is sponsored by Camper’s Village.
  • The People’s Choice Award is sponsored by Timex.
  • The People’s Choice Award for Radical Reels is sponsored by Fido.

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More information on the Banff Mountain Film Festival

High-resolution images from winning films


Media Contact
Jill Sawyer
Media and Communications Officer, The Banff Centre
403.762.6475


The Banff Mountain Film Festival is presented by National Geographic and New Balance, and sponsored by Patagonia, Deuter, OR, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Polartec, and Gore-tex, with support from MSR, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, PETZL, World Expeditions, Mountain Hardwear, Mountain Equipment Co-op, CBC Radio-Canada, Calgary Herald, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the International Alliance for Mountain Film.