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Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival announces 2021 Film and Book Grand Prize Winners

By Jess Elliott Posted on November 05, 2021
From the film Sonder

BANFF, AB, November  5, 2021 – Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival is thrilled to announce The Rescue as Grand Prize winner in the Banff Mountain Film Competition and Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard as Grand Prize winner in the Banff Mountain Book Competition.

Banff Mountain Film Competition

Grand Prize
$4000 – Sponsored by Doña Paula
The Rescue
(USA, 2021, 110 mins)
Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Producers: John Battsek, Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, P.J. van Sandwijk

When 12 young soccer players and their coach were trapped by monsoon floods inside a cave in Thailand, the world watched for 16 days as reporters gave updates from outside the rescue zone. The Rescue gives a perspective that no reporter could ever capture, through the eyes of the Thai and international rescue divers, and never-before-seen footage from their cameras.

“This real-life Mission Impossible, played out on television screens at the time of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, sets out to save the twelve young Thai footballers and their coach from almost certain death, as they become trapped in a deep cave deluged by a downpour in Northern Thailand.  An assorted team is tasked with this mission, made up of the Thai Navy Seals, US Air Force Special and volunteer cave divers, whose cave-diving know-how as well as their courage and self-deprecation is notably striking.  The live footage of weeks of the rescue mission in dark subterranean caves, against a ticking clock before the onset of the next rains, knitted together with archival footage, enactments, and interviews, make for documentary as gripping cinema." 

– Kesang Tseten, Film Competition jury member

The 2021 Film Competition jury members are documentary filmmaker, and film mentor Kesang Tseten (Nepal), filmmaker, and Festival Director of Mountainfilm, Telluride Suzan Beraza (USA), climber, writer, and filmmaker Paul Pritchard (Australia), writer, Devyani Saltzman (Canada), and filmmaker, Bachar Khattar (Lebanon).

Category  Award Winners:

Creative Excellence Award
The Magnitude of All Things
(Canada, 2020, 86 mins)
Director: Jennifer Abbott
Producers: Jennifer Abbott, Henrik Meyer, Shirley Vercruysse, Andrew Williamson

Best Film: Exploration and Adventure
$2000 – Sponsored by Monod Sports
Exit the North Pole
(Norway, 2021, 57 mins)
Director: Ole-André Lagmandokk
Producer: Svein Haaland

Best Film: Mountain Culture
$2000 – Sponsored by Helly Hansen
Horse Tamer
(France, 2019, 85 mins)
Director: Hamid Sardar
Producer: Vivien Lemaignan

Best Film: Climbing
$2000 – Sponsored by Arc’teryx
(USA, 2021, 70 mins)
Director: Blake McCord
Producer: Justin Clifton

Best Film: Mountain Sports
The River Runner
(USA, 2021, 86 mins)
Director: Rush Sturges
Producers: Rush Sturges, Thayer Walker, Aidan Haley

Best Film: Snow Sports
$2000 – Sponsored by Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
Learning to Drown
(USA, 2021, 40 mins)
Director: Ben Knight
Producer: Travis Rummel

Best Film: Mountain Environment and Natural History
$2000 – Sponsored by Bow Valley Power
Tigre Gente
(USA, 2021, 93 mins)
Director: Elizabeth Unger
Producers: Elizabeth Unger, Joanna Natasegara

Best Short Film
$2000 – Sponsored by Backcountry Lodges of BC Association
From My Window
(USA, 2020, 19 mins)
Director: Frank Pickell
Producer: Christian Silberbauer

Best Feature Length Film
(USA, 2020, 91 mins)
Director: Max Lowe
Producers: Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Max Lowe, Chris Murphy

Special Jury Mentions:

(Canada, 2020, 34 mins)
Director: Jay Macmillan
Producer: Jay Macmillan

Reel Rock 15: Black Ice
(USA, 2020, 44 mins)
Directors: Zachary Barr, Peter Mortimer
Producers: Chris Dean, Zachary Barr

Watch the award winning films online in our Best of the Festival: 2021 Award-Winning Films programs (November 5-7).

Banff Mountain Book Competition

Grand Prize – The Phyllis and Don Munday Award
$4000 – Sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada
Finding the Mother Tree
Suzanne Simard, Allen Lane Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2021)

“It's wonderful when a book can change the way we perceive the world around us. As someone who spends a lot of time in forests, my perception and understanding of that interconnected world has been altered, thanks to Suzanne Simard's story.

Throughout Finding the Mother Tree, Simard alludes to the awareness of indigenous first nation peoples for the wisdom of the forest - the caring networks of trees and other organisms, including humans. She has used the scientific method and her own inspirational grit and determination to make us remember this forgotten knowledge. Moreover, in discovering and explaining at an ecological, biological and chemical level, she has substantially enhanced this knowledge. By relating it in a manner our industrialized world will understand, Simard is showing us the reasons why we need to change our ways.

Simard has tied cutting-edge science, decades of hands-on research, and expert storytelling with a powerful personal story. It’s an unbeatable combination that renders complex science approachable and beautiful.”

– Book Competition jury members

The 2021 Book Competition jury members are Heather Dawe (UK, writer, artist, and founder of Little Peak Press), Bernadette McDonald (CAN, award winning author of 11 books, and former VP of Mountain Culture at Banff Centre), and Pete Takeda (USA, writer, and professional climber).

Category Award Winners:

Mountain Literature (non-fiction) – The Jon Whyte Award
$2000 - Sponsored by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Structured Chaos
Victor Saunders, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2021)

Mountain Fiction & Poetry
$2000 – Sponsored by the Town of Banff
Dammed If You Don’t
Chris Kalman (USA, 2021)

Mountain Environment and Natural History
$2000 – Sponsored by Canadian Mountain Network
Finding the Mother Tree
Suzanne Simard, Allen Lane Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2021)

Adventure Travel
$2000 - Sponsored by World Expeditions
Two Trees Make a Forest
Jessica J. Lee, Hamish Hamilton Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2020)

Mountain Image
$2000 – Sponsored by Banff Culture Collective
The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland
Guy Robertson, Scottish Mountaineering Press (UK, 2020)

$2000 – Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
Irish Peaks
Mountaineering Ireland (Ireland, 2020)

Mountaineering Article
$2000 – Sponsored by Rab
Letters to a Young Climber
Doug Robinson, Alpinist Magazine (USA, June 2021)

Climbing Literature
$2000 – Sponsored by Mountain Life
A Feeling for Rock
Sarah-Jane Dobner, Dob Dob Dob (UK, 2021)

Special Jury Mention
More than It Hurts: And Other Stories of (Mis)Adventure by Womxn Who Climb and Mountaineer
Wendy Bruere, Climb and Wine (Australia, 2020)

For more information on the 2021 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival and to view the live and virtual schedule for the closing weekend (November 5 - 7), please visit

The World Tour hits the road following the Festival, bringing Banff to audiences in over 40 countries, with more than 1000 screenings annually around the globe.

Mark your calendar for next year's Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival – October 29 to November 6, 2022!

For more information or image requests, please contact:

Jess Elliott
Media and Communications
Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival
107 Tunnel Mountain Drive
Banff, Alberta
T1L 1H5        

About Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival: Created 46 years ago, Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has become the premier event of its kind in the world. The nine-day Festival hosted by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Canada, showcases the world’s best films, books and photographs on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment and natural history, exploration and adventure, wildlife, and sport – and attracts the biggest names in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and explorers as presenters and speakers. International juries will also award over $40,000 in prizes for films and books submitted to this year’s Festival competitions.


Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Partners: The 2021 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Presenting Partners are: Rab, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, and BUFF®. The Festival is also sponsored by Oboz Footwear, Yeti, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Doña Paula, World Expeditions, Kicking Horse Coffee, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola, and Lowe Alpine.


About Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity: Founded in 1933, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a learning organization built upon an extraordinary legacy of excellence in artistic and creative development. What started as a single course in drama has grown to become the global organization leading in arts, culture, and creativity across dozens of disciplines. From our home on Treaty 7 territory in the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity aims to inspire everyone who attends our campus – artists, leaders, and thinkers – to unleash their creative potential and realize their unique contribution to society through cross-disciplinary learning opportunities, world-class performances, and public outreach.