Banff Mountain Film Competition 2016 Winners

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Grand Prize

Shepherdess of the Glaciers

Shepherdess of the Glaciers © Christiane Mordelet

Sponsored by MEC | $4,000

Shepherdess of the Glaciers

  • (France, 2016, 74 min)
  • Director/Producer: Christiane Mordelet, Stanzin Dorjai
  • Production Company: Les Films de la Decouverte

This outstanding, intimate film focuses in on the life of a one of the last shepherdesses in Ladakh. She lives alone at 5,000 metres above sea level with her 300 goats. Filmed by her brother over four seasons, the film draws us into her world of icy loneliness and friendship with her animals.

“Half way around the world, the filmmakers' ability to make an intimate and isolated existence 'universal' is what makes this film at once moving and engaging. This expansive film absorbs the viewer into the conjoined, meditative world of a harsh environment – which includes the passing seasons, a barren mountainous landscape, and the intimate relationship between humans and animals in their care. Capturing a moment in time quietly observing a spirited individual eking out a basic existence with all of life's necessities, the filmmaker uncovers a life that is organic – filled with struggles, but ultimately a life abundant with awe and joy.”

— Elizabeth Yake, jury member.

Award for Creative Excellence

The Accord

The Accord © Tributaries Digital Cinema

Sponsored by Mountain Life Media | $2,000

The Accord

  • (Iceland/USA, 2016, 19 min)
  • Director: RC Cone
  • Producer: RC Cone, Elli Thor Magnus
  • Production Company: Tributaries Digital Cinema.

Being so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the tropical surf world hardens Iceland’s surfers to confront the the harsh reality they all must face – that old and unforgiving North Atlantic wind.

“Your protagonists are a pair of surfers. Your set pieces are the rocks, waves, and raw nature of Iceland. And your antagonist is visceral yet unseen – the unpredictable and relentless North Atlantic Wind. So what can a filmmaker do when he cannot control, much less visually capture a tempermental star? The filmmaker truly breaks new ground in creative achievement. He gets the wind drunk.”

— Ciaran Flannery, jury member.

Best Film: Exploration and Adventure

Holy (un)Holy River

Holy (un)Holy River © Pete McBride

Sponsored by Vasque | $2,000

Holy (un)Holy River

  • (USA, 2015, 60 min)
  • Director/Producer: Peter McBride, Jake Norton
  • Production Company: Mountain World and Pete McBride Productions

Is contamination and too much pressure killing the Ganges, or are its waters truly magical? Traveling from 5,500 metres atop the Gangotri Glacier, a team of three journeys 2400 kilometres downstream a river that has more than 100 names, exploring every nook of its life to understand the magic of The Ganges, the most sacred of all of India's rivers.

“What is the spirit of exploration and adventure? It can be found in bold outdoor pursuits, where one pushes its limits to ever higher levels as well as in a quest for truth that goes beyond documentation of sheer facts. The goal of this expedition is clearly set – to discover whether a river’s waters are dying due to contamination or is this river somehow magical? We follow the team of explorers from the mountains downstream, learning about the scientific, environmental, cultural and social aspects of the sacred river, treated in profane way. The personal and insightful journey illuminates larger and universal issues by reminding viewers that the future of this mighty river lies on the shoulders of this generation.”

— Gabriella Kuhn, jury member.

Best Film: Mountain Culture

Freedom under Load

Freedom under Load © Pavol Barabas

Sponsored by Helly Hansen | $2,000

Freedom Under Load

  • (Slovakia, 2016, 58 min)
  • Director: Pavol Barabáš
  • Producer: Alena Koscova
  • Production Company: Ks studio s.r.o.

With 100 kilos on their backs, they face storms, blizzards, and deep snow. Their traditonal craft is not only a profession. For the oldest generation of porters in the High Tatras mountains, it is also a method of meditation and self discovery.

“The cultures around the world are threatened when human rights are not protected, respected and fulfilled, but also when there is a demand for freedom without any limits. This esthetic and unpretentious documentary allows us to sense the spirit of people, who find their freedom while carrying heavy loads and executing a difficult craft, which has disappeared in other mountains. Through powerful images emphasized by subtle music and the sounds of nature, this intimate portrait of porters working in Slovak Tatra Mountains, show us how carrying the load can clean one’s soul. It can be read as a metaphor of sacrifice, quite an unfashionable concept nowadays, although it is exactly the sacrifice and ability of giving to the others, that can help protect vanishing cultures.”

— Gabriella Kuhn, jury member.

Best Film: Climbing

Boys in the Bugs

Boys in the Bugs © Kyle Berkompas

Sponsored by Alpine Club of Canada | $2,000

Boys in the Bugs

  • (USA, 2016, 18 min)
  • Director: Zachary Barr, Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
  • Producer: Zachary Barr
  • Production Company: REEL ROCK

Crack climbing is a bold, traditionalist discipline. In an age of elite athletes, fad diets, and training regimes, Matt Segal and Will Stanhope harken back to the old school of climbing, where guts and spirit make up for lack of planning and a healthy lifestyle.

“We had a number of good climbing films to consider, but we were drawn to one that was a bit off-kilter. This film did a masterful job of juxtaposing the lighter aspects of the lifestyle with the determination it takes to achieve your goals. And bottom line, it was a joy to watch and laugh.”

— Doug Bailey, jury member.

Best Film: Mountain Sports


Metronomic © Damien Deschamps

Sponsored by Sea & Summit | $2,000


  • (France, 2015, 16 min)
  • Director and Producer: Vladimir Cellier
  • Production Company: Baraka Films & Flying Frenchies

High above the Gorges du Verdon, a skillful blend of artists and high-level balancing athletes play a high energy symphony devoted to risk. It’s a hymn that melds visual performance and contemplative poetry into pure entertainment.

“It’s not often that a new discipline is born. But when your dreams are equal parts flying and drumming – there’s only one thing you can do: blend mountain sports, music, and performance art into something the world has never before seen. Joyous, thrilling, and elegant, yet effortlessly cool: for once the cliché is true – this film really does break new ground.”

— Ciaran Flannery, jury member.

Best Film: Snow Sports

China: A Skier's Journey

China: A Skier's Journey © Jordan Manley

Sponsored by Bergans of Norway and Norseman Outdoor Specialist | $2,000

China: A Skier's Journey

  • (Canada, 2016, 16 min)
  • Director and Producer: Jordan Manley
  • Production Company: Narrows Media Inc.

Skiers Chad Sayers and Forrest Coots touch down into the rich past and dizzying future of Chinese ski cultures. As one rapidly expands, they find the other is at risk of disappearing.

“Contemplate the earliest origins of skiing and free riding, and the potentially dystopian future of skiing. There’s one place where all three uneasily co-exist. In this stylized meditative essay, a skier’s first person narrative explores the state of his sport in the world’s most populous country. And in the end we are left with more questions than answers.”

— Ciaran Flannery, jury member.

Best Film: Mountain Environment & Natural History

KONELĪINE: our land beautiful

Taken from the film KONELĪINE: our land beautiful

Sponsored by lululemon | $2,000

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful

  • (Canada, 2015, 96 min)
  • Director: Nettie Wild
  • Producer: Betsy Carson
  • Production Company: Canada Wild Productions

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a sensual, cinematic celebration of northwestern British Columbia, and all the dreamers who move across it. Set deep in the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation, KONELĪNE captures beauty and complexity as one of Canada’s vast wildernesses undergoes irrevocable change.

“In this exquisite exposé, the filmmaker bears witness to a changing world and documents a way of life that will surely be lost. This filmmaker fearlessly allows the images to unfold- taking the time for the atmosphere to envelope the audience. The film's poetry in motion leads the audience to its own conclusion and in doing so viewers find solace not only in what has gone before – but also – in what can be possible.”

— Elizabeth Yake, jury member.

Best Short Mountain Film

Image from the film Northbound

Sponsored by The North Face | $2,000


  • (Norway, 2015, 11 min)
  • Director: Jorn Nyseth Ranum
  • Producer: Anders Graham
  • Production Company: Turbin Films AS

Four skateboarders head north above the Arctic Circle to the cold Norwegian coast to apply their urban riding skills to a canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand, and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup of biting winds, ollies and one ephemeral miniramp.

“This short, hypnotizing film takes the viewers into a picturesque scene. The youthful energy of the skilled urban skaters set against the static images of the frozen coast, a wrecked boat and dark blue sky create a mystical atmosphere. There, the four boys, liberated from their egos, freely express themselves having realized that 'it is nice to be where the eagle wants to be'.”

— Gabriella Kuhn, jury member.

Best Feature-Length Mountain Film

Climbing Higher

Climbing Higher © Radek Jaros

Sponsored by Town of Banff | $2,000

Climbing Higher

  • (Czech Republic, 2015, 100 min)
  • Director: David Calek
  • Producer: Richard Nemec
  • Production Company: Verbascum s.r.o.

Czech climber Radek Jaroš' story is one of determination and of overcoming shared and personal limits. It is also the story of compromise and of the price paid to achieve every mountain climber’s dream: ascending the Crown of the Himalayas, the world's 14 tallest mountains.

“From the dark confines of the theatres we have travelled through landscapes and shared adventures in the most stunning corners of the world. But in this film we also have a complex weaving together of characters; the family and friends from home are as much a part of the expedition as are the climbers and the mountains. Here we glimpse the inner world of climbing. The age-old story of the need to satisfy obsession. The problems of growing up with that obsessive parent. The gratification of achieving the most difficult and dangerous goals. The joy of the return to home. The underlying themes are told in an understated way that allow the viewer to piece together the bigger picture of expedition climbing. This is quite simply good storytelling... in film.”

— Victor Saunders, jury member.

People's Choice Award


SHIFT © Derek Crowe

Sponsored by Osprey | $2,000


  • (Canada, 2016, 28 min)
  • Director and Producer: Kelly Milner
  • Production Company: Shot in the Dark Productions

Meet a group of aboriginal youth who over the past 10 years have constructed almost 100 kilometers of biking trails through the Yukon wilderness in an effort to make their community into a world-class mountan biking destination. Along the way, they’ve transformed themselves.

People's Choice Award for Radical Reels

Image from the film Young Guns © Brett Lowell

Sponsored by Oboz Footwear | $2,000

Young Guns

  • (USA, 2016, 30 min)
  • Director: Nick Rosen, Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer
  • Producer: Zachary Barr
  • Production Company: REEL ROCK

Meet the new faces of climbing: 14-year-old Ashima Shiraishi and 15-year-old Kai Lightner. Pushed outside their comfort zone, Kai and Ashima learn some hard but important lessons that will carry them to even greater heights.


Langtang: Summits of My Life III

Langtang: Summits of My Life III

  • (Spain, 2015, 52 min)
  • Director: Sebastien Montaz-Rosset
  • Producer: Jordi Lymbus

A journey to the heart of post-earthquake Nepal with ultra runner Kilian Jornet and alpinist Jordi Tosas who throw themselves into a despearate effort to save lives in their beloved Langtang Valley.

“At 11:55 a.m. on 24 April 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The epicentre was in Sindupalchuk. The toll in Nepal was later estimate to be 9,000 fatalities and countless injured and displaced. 10 minutes later and 50 kilometres from the epicentre the entire village of Langtang was swept away by a rock and ice avalanche. This is the story of one team that abandoned their objectives and devoted the expedition to helping the search and rescue operation in the Langtang valley. There are harrowing scenes as they travel up the ruins of the valley they know so well. It is now like a battle zone. The jury was impressed by the immediacy of the film. This is spur of the moment stuff; handmade, low tech, intimate footage shot with minimal planning.”

— Victor Saunders, jury member.


The Super Salmon

The Super Salmon © Ryan Peterson

The Super Salmon

  • (USA, 2016, 25 min)
  • Director and Producer: Ryan Peterson
  • Production Company: Alaskanist Stories

Proponents of a plan to construct a $5.2-billion hydroelectric mega-dam on Alaska’s Susitna River say it wouldn’t affect the watershed’s famous salmon runs because of its location – upstream of where fish usually swim. Tell that to the Super Salmon.

“It’s no easy task to make conservation entertaining, so we felt like this film deserved special mention. Led by two strong protagonists, one human and one fish, we explore the complexities of clean energy versus conservation and standing up for what’s right. Most importantly, it’s done in a humorous way, thereby engaging a wide audience in the issue.”

— Doug Bailey, jury member.