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Full Circle wins the 2023 Banff Mountain Film Competition Grand Prize

By Jess Elliott Posted on novembre 04, 2023
Full Circle Winter Park Backflip Rail Trevor Kennison

Full Circle wins the 2023 Banff Mountain Film Competition Grand Prize

BANFF, AB, November 5, 2023 – Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival is thrilled to announce Full Circle as winner of the Grand Prize in the 2023 Banff Mountain Film Competition.

Full Circle is both an unblinking examination of the challenges of life after spinal cord injury and a celebration of the opportunity for growth that such a tragedy can present. At Jackson Hole’s iconic Corbet’s Couloir, sit-skier Trevor Kennison attempts an incredible comeback. Meanwhile, the story of the couloir’s namesake Barry Corbet, also a survivor of a spinal cord injury 50 years earlier, offers a path forward beyond the mountain. Director Josh Berman’s film asks if it’s possible for a person to experience a tragedy, to learn from it, grow from and turn it into a gift they offer to themselves and others.

“This film provides a raw and unapologetic look at the difficulty of reinventing oneself. It is a documentary that 'goes there' - giving us hope and inspiration, but also making us deeply uncomfortable by introducing us to the difficult realities that come with paralysis. Trevor and Barry's stories capture our hearts because they represent the indomitable human spirit that moves mind and body beyond disability. Their stories of personal alchemy, and of turning tragedy into triumph, force us to ask ourselves the question posed by poet Mary Oliver, 'What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?'

– Sarah Steele, jury member

The 2023 Film Competition jury members are: the founder and director of New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival, mountain guide, and author Mark Sedon (New Zealand); educator, editor of The Himalayan Journal, hiker, and traveler Nandini Purandare (India); adventure athlete and content creator (cofounder of female-led production company Well Travelled Collective) Sarah Steele (USA); filmmaker, photographer, rock-climber, co-owner of UATÊ STORIED LEARNING Peruzzo Andrade (Brazil); and founder/organizer of Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in China, Ocean Film Festival China Tour, ReelRock Film China Tour, European Outdoor Film Tour, and Banff China Adventure Filmmaker’s Workshop Tina Qian (China).


Category winners for the 2023 Banff Mountain Film Competition are:

Grand Prize
Sponsored by Doña Paula | $5000
Full Circle­­­
(USA, 2023, 100 mins)
Director: Josh Berman
Producer: Level 1, Conor Smith


Best Film: Adventure and Exploration
Sponsored by Aurora Expeditions| $3000
(Canada, 2023, 87 mins)
Director: François-Xavier De Ruydts
Producer: Cold Fingers Films, Jenny Rustemeyer

In a remarkable year, two gritty teams of hobbyist cavers are poised to break records for the longest and deepest caves in Canada. After discovering a flooded underground chamber, Katie, a daytime accountant, becomes obsessed with returning to the Bisaro Anima cave in the Rocky Mountains to push the caving depth record. At the same time, a passionate Vancouver Island team is attempting to link two tunnel systems to create the longest known cave in the country. From abyssal, muddy crawls to heart-pounding, vertical pits and underwater squeezes, these are places where no person has been before.

“Typically, we celebrate snow-capped peaks and jagged granite edges. But this film takes us on a very different adventure - one maybe less celebrated but equally daring. From complete darkness aside from one’s headlamp, the physical discomfort of going hundreds of feet down through tight passages, endless mud, not to mention the difficulty of hauling camera equipment around - everything about this undertaking embodies the spirit of adventure. Subterranean takes us where few films have gone before - into the belly of the earth, and in this case, into Banff's very own backyard.”

– Sarah Steele, jury member


Best Film: Environment
Sponsored by Mountain Equipment Company | $3000
The Eagle with the Sunlit Eye
(UK, 2023, 92 mins)
Director: Ted Simpson
Producer: Scout Studio, Finbar O'Sullivan

We drove it to extinction. We brought it back. Can we learn to look it in the eye? The White-Tailed Eagle is one of the largest birds of prey on the planet. For generations, humans have struck an uneasy relationship with this apex predator. The return of this apex predator in Britain sparked controversy, as accusations of livestock killings quickly surfaced from Scotland’s rural community. Despite no record of predation in Norway, and with an Irish reintroduction scheme ongoing, in Scotland a war of words rages on over the future of this raptor.

“One day, will humans become the last remaining creatures on the earth? Biodiversity is critical to the future of humanity and the earth’s ecosystem. Solving the human-animal conflict is a global challenge. Can we bring animals and plants back from extinction and find a way to co-exist harmoniously? This film is about the project to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to Scotland. Through the conflicts between environmentalists and locals, this film also shows the efforts of people who try to find solutions in the face of conflict.”

– Tina Qian, jury member


Best Film: Mountain Sports
Sponsored by Herschel | $3000
Eternal Flame
(Switzerland, 2023, 26 mins)
Director: Nicolas Bossard
Producer: MS PROD, Nicolas Bossard

After having climbed the Eternal Flame route on Nameless Tower in Pakistan (6200m), French BASE jumpers Eric Jamet and Antoine Pecher combine the ascent with one of the most beautiful BASE jumps imaginable. Following in the footsteps of pioneer jumpers from 1990, the duo of friends devour adventure and all it offers, beauty, power and anxiety all contribute to the experience.

“A self-filmed epic journey to climb and jump from one of the highest cliffs on the planet, this film is an excellent story of adventure, friendship, and laughter. The film takes us on a crazy trip into the depths of Pakistan, showcasing its colourful and friendly culture. It was great to see excellent alpinists who don’t take themselves too seriously. You can just imagine how difficult the self-filming would have been!”

– Mark Sedon, jury member


Best Film: Mountain Culture
Sponsored by Helly Hansen | $3000
Leo & Chester
(Canada, 2022, 8 mins)
Director: Andrea Wing
Producer: MMGY Origin, Aline Mayerhoffer

Leo, a sought-after rock star with a promising career, turns his back on the industry to pursue a life on the land with a herd of buffalo.

“This film accomplishes the impossible – in just nine minutes of intense storytelling, the filmmaker captures the life-changing spiritual experience of Leo Downy who once was a rock star. The camera spans the beautiful wintry landscape of the Rocky Mountains, examining the deep bond between man and buffalo (yes, buffalo). Leo contextualizes the buffalo to tell the story of what was once thought of as ‘human progress’ but was in fact violence against peoples, animals and nature. We see him make a conscious choice of going back to a more harmonious way of living and we are left wondering about ourselves and our own choices. A big shout out to Andrea Wing and her team for making this little gem that outshone many at this year’s festival. And to Leo Downy for doing what he loves.”

– Nandini Purandare, jury member


Best Film: Climbing
Sponsored by Arc'teryx | $3000
Reel Rock: Resistance Climbing
(USA, 2023, 37 mins)
Director: Zachary Barr, Nick Rosen
Producer: Reel Rock, Zachary Barr, Nick Rosen, Inas Radaydeh, Tim Bruns

In the strife-torn hills of Palestine, a diverse crew of Bedouins, dirtbags and urban professionals embraces climbing as a much-needed respite from the burdens of the Israeli occupation. American writer & climber Andrew Bisharat visits the West Bank to explore his own roots and the power of climbing to transform lives.

“So much more than a climbing film! Made before the current Middle Eastern conflict, this film offers a great explanation of Palestine’s geopolitical situation and how the Palestinian people are caught up in the conflict.  It shows how climbing can bring joy and hope when people don’t have much. It bridges religion, wealth and different cultures to bring people together. The film is a masterpiece of climbing story telling.”

– Mark Sedon, jury member


Best Film: Snow Sports
Sponsored by Park Distillery | $3000
The Blackcountry Journal
(USA, 2023, 9 mins)
Director: Mallory Duncan, Patrick Elmore
Producer: Uhuru Mountain Connections, Mallory Duncan

A skier contemplates his connection to skiing and the mountains. As he hurries through the streets of L.A., his path takes a turn after bumping into a jazz musician who helps him discover the correlation between jazz and skiing—an expression of art, skiing, and black culture.

Every frame of this short film is like a beautiful piece of photography. The way the filmmaker puts jazz, skiing, and black culture together is very creative. It seems so smooth and natural. The three distinct elements complement each other, and all become enjoyable individually.”

– Tina Qian, jury member

Best Feature Film
Sponsored by NRS | $3000
Deep Rising
(USA, 2023, 94 mins)
Director: Matthieu Rytz
Producer: Deep Rising PTE, Matthieu Rytz

Narrated by Jason Momoa, Deep Rising illuminates the vital relationship between the deep ocean and sustaining life on Earth. The documentary also follows mining startup The Metals Company, as it pursues funding, public favor, and permission from the International Seabed Authority to mine wide swaths of the Pacific Ocean floor.

“Spectacular cinematography gives us a look into an ‘alien’ world right here on earth. But as we humans tend to do, we want to destroy it. Is the ocean worth saving at the expense of the electric car? Will mining the seabed simply speed up our extinction? An absorbing and compelling film that will have you thinking and talking. This film shows a solution exists.”

– Mark Sedon, jury member

Best Short Film
Sponsored by DUER | $3000
School of Fish
(USA, 2022, 19 mins)
Director: Colin Arisman, Oliver Sutro
Producer: Wild Confluence Media, Orvis, Colin Arisman, Oliver Sutro

Indigenous people and salmon have been intertwined for thousands of years in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The knowledge of harvesting, preserving and sharing fish is as important here as any lesson in a book. Today, kids must not only learn from their elders how to fish, but also how to fight. For the last century, corporations have sought to extract the wealth of this rich region. Now Pebble Mine threatens to pollute the pristine headwaters of Bristol Bay. Can the next generation step up to defend the most prolific salmon run left on earth?

“Over the past 10 years, I have been living as a grateful guest in the territories of the WSANEC Nations. During this time, I have learned about the role of salmon in local Nationhood, cultural wellness and how vital it is for the health of the land. School of Fish reveals the interconnections between one family and their commitment to salmon in the territories of Bristol Bay. This story speaks to ancestral knowledge, and the importance of present action for generations to come. It’s an example of how filmmaking is a tool for self-determination.”

– Peruzzo Andrade, jury member

Creative Excellence Award
Sponsored by Core Values Cider Co. | $3000
(USA, 2023, 15 mins)
Director: Timmy O’Neill
Producer: Well Travelled Collective, Sarah Steele*

Soundscape shares the sightless experience of climbing a mountain via echo location, touch and imagination. Soundscape features Erik Weihenmayer, a global adventure athlete and author who is fully blind, as he ascends a massive alpine rock face deep in the Sierra Nevada. Using expert camera work from Mikey Schaefer and emotive, novel animation from Leah Nichols to bring to life a concept by adaptive climbing pioneer Timmy O’Neill, the film is a surprising and soulful adventure.

At one point in the film, blind climber Erik Weihenmayer says, ‘There is such nuance to sound if you actually pay attention.’ Climbing the steep rock face, through and with Erik was a completely new and different perspective. This film creates questions and looks for answers. One question is as simple as ‘Why climb when you cannot see?’ Neither the protagonist nor the filmmaker court sympathy. They merely steer the viewer through an experience up close, using magnificent camera work and animation, and most importantly, communicating that sound is truly as evocative and experiential as sight; that touch conveys so much information. I never thought it possible. Timmy O’Neill, pioneering adaptive climber and maker of this film, thank you.”

– Nandini Purandare, jury member

*Juror Sarah Steele abstained from discussion for the Creative Excellence award and was not present for the final decision making.


Audience Choice Award
Sponsored by 11th Hour Racing | $3000
Yamnuska: The Ragged Edge
(Canada, 2023, 65 min)
Director: John Price
Producer: Sherpas Cinema, Malcolm Sangster


Special Jury Mention
(Austria, 2023, 32 mins)
Director: Michael Haunschmidt
Producer: Legs of Steel, Daniel Schiessl

Dennis Ranalter, aka D-Ran, is a world class free-ride skier with dual Austrian and African heritage. In Descendance, he considers his mountain childhood, which was full of privilege where he was alienated from his African roots. Setting out on a journey to revisit his paternal family in Ghana, Africa, he recognizes the need to celebrate multiculturism as part of his self-identity.

“This film is a powerful piece about breaking barriers - be it on skis, with oneself, or in society. With the backdrop of stunning ski footage starring professional athlete Dennis Ranalter – also known as 'Legs of Steel' - Descendance sheds light on the unnecessary pain caused by biases and harmful stereotypes that linger in adventure sports. This piece not only surfaces a necessary conversation around the complex nature of identity, but the need for society to change its narrative.”

– Sarah Steele, jury member


Special Jury Mention
Keepers of the Land
(Canada, 2023, 28 mins)
Director: Deidre Leowinata, Douglas Neasloss
Producer: Moonfish Media Inc., Deidre Leowinata, Douglas Neasloss

In the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, one Nation is reclaiming the power they held for millennia. As the impacts of colonial exploitation and mismanagement take an increasing toll on their territory, the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation finds strength in its stories and culture, emerging as a stewardship leader in a new age of reconciliation in Canada. A powerful story of resurgence told through the eyes of elder and hereditary chief Nismuutk, Ernest Mason Jr., and the new young leaders following in his footsteps.

“The Banff Mountain Film Festival has become a gathering place for those who connect to the spirit of the mountains. Those of us privileged enough to spend time in the mountains know that if the land is well, we are well. And that Indigenous communities are leading the way in caretaking for our planet. It is a rare treasure to come across a film that not only inspires but also educates. This year’s jury wants to uphold the leadership of the Kitasoo Xai'xais in their production of the film KEEPERS OF THE LAND as a true honorary mention.”

– Peruzzo Andrade, jury member

The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival 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 26 to November 3, 2024!


For more information or image requests, please contact:

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 48 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. An international jury 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 2023 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, World Expeditions, Kicking Horse Coffee, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola, Lowe Alpine, Doña Paula, and Park Distillery.

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.