Banff Mountain Film Competition 2019 Winners

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Grand Prize

Image from the film Piano to Zanskar © Jarek Kotomski

Piano to Zanskar © Jarek Kotomski

Sponsored by MEC | $4,000

Piano to Zanskar

  • (UK, 2018, 86 min)
    Director: Michal Sulima
  • Producer: Jarek Kotomski

  • Facing his future in retirement, “sitting in deck chairs and eating lemon drizzle cake”, 65-year-old piano tuner, Desmond O'Keeffe, decides instead to take on the most challenging and perilous delivery of his four decade career: transporting a 100-year-old, 80-kilogram, upright piano, from bustling London to the remote heart of the Indian Himalayas.  

“This film unites a set of lovely characters so individual and multi-faceted, even a seasoned Hollywood-screenwriter would have a hard time coming up with them. It takes us on a quest that seems to be crazy and anachronistic but is actually full of purpose and symbolic power. Watching this film helps to restore the belief in a better world. Our hearts warmed as we joined Harold, Desmond, and Anna on their journey schlepping a piano in pieces along dusty roads and across steep slopes into a remote village high up in the Himalayan Mountains. When 65-year old piano tuner Desmond reassembles the instrument, it becomes the highest piano in the world and everybody is united by the magic of music. Cultural boundaries vanish and a crazy dream becomes real.   This is a passion project of emerging filmmakers. It is enchanting, it is a feel-good movie and it is the account of a real adventure.”

— Joachim Hellinger, jury member

Creative Excellence Award

Image from the film Camel Finds Water

Image from the film Camel Finds Water

Sponsored by Trangia | $2,000

Camel Finds Water

(USA, 2019, 8 min) 
Director: Ian Durkin
Producer: Ian Durkin and Trevor Gordon

Trevor found the hull of an abandoned fishing boat in a field. He brought it home and built it back to a sea-worthy state over the course of a summer. Then, he took it on its maiden voyage to British Columbia in search of waves.     

“In this film, there is nothing wasted and every shot works. It is done with unique flare and a cheeky retro style. This is a really fun film!”

— Billy Choi, jury member

Best Film: Exploration and Adventure

Image from the film Home

Image from the film Home

Sponsored by Devold | $2,000

Home

(Canada, 2019, 91 mins)
Director: Jen Randall
Producers: Jen Randall, Sarah Outen

Between 2011 and 2015 UK adventurer Sarah Outen traversed the globe by bike, kayak and rowing boat, travelling over 32,000 kilometres by human power alone. The solo trip took its toll, and a violent storm on the Pacific takes Sarah to the physical and mental brink. 

“This is a compelling film tracking the journey of an ordinary woman, on an extra-ordinary adventure. It takes you on an emotional and physically demanding roller-coaster ride around the globe, highlighting the warmth and generosity of our fellow human beings. The film is challenging, engaging, enthralling, and inspiring. However – the central question is......where is HOME? Such a simple title, for such a complex film.”

— Lynn Robinson, jury member

Best Film: Mountain Culture

Sponsored by Helly Hansen | $2,000

Holy Tour 


(France, 2018, 70 mins)
Directors: Valery Rosier, Meryl Fortunat-Rossi
Producer: Benoit Roland

Holy Tour is a film about the modern day pilgrims who stake out their claim to camping spots two weeks ahead of time on the Tour de France route so they can cheer on the riders when they eventually pass.  It is a film about the passing of time perched between the road and the cliff, about summertime and daily routine and about everyone’s need to belong.

"This is a purely observational documentary and a creative twist on this iconic sporting event.  In this film, we spend one week along the roadside with fans of this event.  Their passion and patriotism, quirks and quibbles on full display. You have never seen the ‘Tour de France’ this way before." 

- Billy Choi, jury member

Best Film: Climbing

Image from the film The Last Mountain

Image from the film The Last Mountain

Sponsored by The Alpine Club of Canada | $2,000

The Last Mountain

  • (Poland, 2019, 83 min)
  • Director: Dariusz Zaluski  
  • Producer: Narodowe Centrum Kultury
  •  

The true story of the 2018 Polish expedition’s attempt on K2, the only remaining unconquered Himalayan peak to be climbed in winter. Tensions are high and the expedition is pulled apart when team members must perform one of the most extraordinary high altitude rescue operations in history of mountaineering.

“In this film, we can find almost everything that can happen during a high altitude expedition. Avalanche, injury, teamwork, ego and conflict. The director captures these unexpected and dramatic moments with a sharp yet dispassionate eye. This allows the audience to make their own judgement with calming distance.”

— Billie Choi, jury member

Best Film: Mountain Sports

Image from the film 8000+

Image from the film 8000+

Sponsored by Rumble Supershake | $2,000

8000+

  • (Germany, 2018, 22 min)
  • Directors: Christian Schmidt, Antoine Girad
  • Producer: Luz  Marina Gennes       
  •  

From the town of Skardu, paraglider Antoine Girard sets off on a three-week hike and fly tour to explore the Karakorum mountains in Pakistan – alone. If he succeeds, he will set a new altitude record in paragliding.

“For one second, I want you all to think about what you did on your last vacation. This film is about  Antoine.  He’s not a professional athlete, he’s a university professor, and this film tracks what he did on his last vacation. Set in the dramatic, Karakorum mountain range, Pakistan, the audience is lifted, with Antoine, by the thermals, to gain a unique glimpse of some amazing mountain scenery, on this self-supported tour in the sky.”

— Lynn Robinson, jury member

Best Film: Snow Sports

Image from the film The Ridge of Dreams

Image from the film The Ridge of Dreams

Sponsored by Park Distillery | $2,000

The Ridge of Dreams

(USA, 2019, 24 min)
Directors: Ben Sturgulewski, Zack Giffin
Producer: Scott Ballew

Two best friends with very different views on life embark on a search for a mythical unskied mountain.

“For sponsored athletes and filmmakers, the pressure to capture every turn, every line, every moment of exhilaration on camera is unrelenting.  The results of all this work is an astonishing, adrenaline-charged body of free ride and extreme snow films.  But at some point, don’t all of us think… I just want this moment for myself?  For the filmmakers on our jury, when we saw the shoot begin to fall apart on screen, and the “adventure payoff” disappear, our hearts stopped.  But then, the Director made the profoundly brave and seriously original decision to keep rolling… The result is a gift to all of us who love the snow and who will keep searching for it, regardless of the audience.”

— Niobe Thompson , jury member

Best Film: Mountain Environment & Natural History

Image from the film Artifishal

Image from the film Artifishal

Sponsored by Kupilka | $2,000

Artifishal

  • (USA, 2019, 90 min)
  • Director: Josh Murphy
  • Producer: Laura Wagner

 

Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide towards extinction, threats posed by hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature.  

“Every once in a while, there is a film that influences the way we think, we love, we live. This documentary will probably change the way we eat. Facing the challenges of feeding an ever-growing population on our planet we humans are forced to come up with solutions. It is our tendency to believe that we can engineer our way out of any problem. And sometimes this seems to work. But when it comes to fish one has to look under the surface. With disturbing images of robot-controlled fish-farms and a well-composed narrative this film gives indisputable evidence that we are swimming in the wrong direction."

— Joachim Hellinger, jury member

Best Short Mountain Film

Image from the film Speak To Me Softly

Image from the film Speak To Me Softly

Sponsored by Sherpa Adventure Gear | $2,000


Speak To Me Softly


(Canada, 2019, 6 min)
Director: Henna Taylor
Producer: Matthew Hood

Take an honest and intimate peek into the headspace of a climber having a not-so-sendy day.  

"I’m going to fall..I’m going to fall...ok, chill...calm down”. I’m sure this is something that we can all relate to...right? This is a beautiful, artistic and gentle story that shows how we can overcome inner doubt with confidence and self-belief...”

— Lynn Robinson, jury member

Best Feature-Length Mountain Film

Image from the film Into the Canyon

Image from the film Into the Canyon

Sponsored by The North Face Banff, owned and operated by Highline Outdoors | $2,000 

Into the Canyon


(USA, 2019, 84 min)
Director: Peter McBride
Producer: Amanda Pollak

When filmmaker/photographer Peter McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko set out on a 1200-kilometre journey on foot through the entire length of the Grand Canyon the challenge becomes far more than they bargained for. Into the Canyon is a story of extreme physical hardship where the bonds of friendship are stretched and the timeless beauty of this sacred place becomes meditation and ultimately a cautionary tale for our complex relationship with the natural world.     

"A question we might well ask ourselves is this: 'Is every person entitled to visit every piece of this wilderness?'  The appetite is there, and there’s money to be made packaging the jewels of the wild for mass tourism.  But as this film reminds us, 'Wilderness cannot be its own spokesperson.'  A feat of endurance, a heartwarming and hilarious buddy film, the work of a major photographer at the height of his powers, this singular film about a specific place - the Grand Canyon - carries a universal message.  When we visit a wild place, it becomes a little less wild.  If we don’t commit to advocating for and protecting wilderness as the other half of loving it and using it… we’ll love it to death." 

— Niobe Thompson, jury member 

People's Choice Award

Image from the film The Trilogy

Image from the film The Trilogy

Sponsored by Osprey | $2,000

The Trilogy

(USA, 2019, 31 min)
Director: Tommy Joyce
Producer: Sasha DiGiulian

Sasha Digiulian does the first female ascent of three 5.14 routes up big walls established by Sonnie Trotter in the Canadian Rockies.

SPECIAL JURY MENTION

Image from the film Out on A Limb

Image from the film Out on A Limb

Out on a Limb

(Canada 2019, 21 min)
Director: Jordan Manley
Producer: Diana Brucculieri

Engineer Kai Lin teams up with climber Craig DeMartino to design a badass prosthetic foot, which if they succeed won’t just level the playing field, but will dish up, if not superpowers, then a real sense of empowerment. Which is almost the same thing.

“A joint connects two parts to become one unit. The construction of a joint for a protheses connects a designer from the East Coast with a disabled climber in the Rocky Mountains in wonderful ways. Smart storytelling and skillful use of on-screen graphics create a strong visual and emotional link between our two protagonists who actually never meet in person.  This film celebrates the benefits of creativity and modern communication in an artful way.”

— Joachim Hellinger, jury member.

SPECIAL JURY MENTION

Image from the film The River and the Wall

Image from the film The River and the Wall

The River and the Wall

(USA, 2019, 99 min)
Director: Ben Masters
Producer: Hillary Pierce

Five friends venture into the wilds of Texas to travel 1,900 kilometres on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes along the Rio Grande as conservation filmmaker Ben Masters realizes the urgency of documenting the last remaining wilderness while the threat of new border wall construction looms ahead.          

“Everywhere, waves of populism are chewing at the foundations of civil discourse, and threatening to wash away cherished ideals.  Among those ideals most at threat are a belief in open borders and a commitment to conservation.  This film shows us what a campaign promise - tailor-made to feed on fear and ignorance - can to do wild places.  It shows us that a wall can’t stop people, but that it can kill an ecosystem.  A journey down the Rio Grande by bike, on horseback, and in canoes, this is a rich and carefully made (and funny) film that succeeds in unpacking a truly complex problem.  It also features some of the worst river running we have seen at the festival in many years.”

— Niobe Thompson, jury member