Banff, Alberta, November 7, 2010 -- Feliciano is descended from generations of indigenous subsistence farmers high in Peru’s Sacred Valley. He and his wife and young son live by the seasons, existing fully off the sparse offerings of the land, in a rhythm that’s existed for hundreds of years. To make extra money he works as a porter on the Inca Trail, carrying close to 50 pounds of gear for trekkers on the four-day trip to Machu Picchu. In his first feature film, Mi Chacra, director Jason Burlage follows Feliciano, at home and on the Trail, uncovering a little-seen way of life high in the Andes. With its moving insight into the place where tradition and modernity meet, Mi Chacra has been awarded the Grand Prize at the 2010 Banff Mountain Film Festival.
“This story is beautifully told,” says Film Festival jury member Eric Valli. “The filmmaker has a deep understanding of his subject, and it puts mountain life under a microscope.” For jury member Jacqueline Florine, Mi Chacra gave her a sense of what it truly means to live in the mountains. “Adventurers, mountaineers, outdoor athletes, we’re really just joyriders out there,” she says. “This film showed us someone who ekes out a living at elevation.”
The film Summer Pasture, which won the award for Best Feature-length Mountain Film, tells a similar story, from the other side of the world. Producer / directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, and Tsering Perlo give us an intimate glimpse into another traditional way of life, on the high grasslands of eastern Tibet. The film follows a nomadic family as they come into contact with the necessities of moving forward in a more modern society. “This film had an authentic feel to it,” says jury member John Porter. “It unfolded naturally.” The film was chosen as a winner in part because of the way it brought forward an intimate family dynamic – uncovering the universal desire that parents have to give their children a better life.
The Australian film Crossing the Ditch was awarded Best Film on Exploration and Adventure, for capturing the true naivety and struggle that underpins many of the world’s best adventures. Made by Douglas Howard, Greg Quail, and Justin Jones, the film documents the attempt by young adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones to cross the 2200-km Tasman Sea by kayak. “These people were completely ignorant about what they wanted to do,” Florine says of the pair, who took on ten-metre waves and shark-infested currents. “But the film shows the complete adventure process, from start to finish.”
Winning the award for Best Film on Mountain Culture, director Stephen Grynberg’s A Life Ascending tells the story of another man fully adapted to life at elevation. Ruedi Beglinger is a guide’s guide, a backcountry ski guru who has spent almost three decades living and working out of a hand-built cabin high in the Selkirk Mountains north of Revelstoke, British Columbia. A Life Ascending shows how Beglinger’s life in the mountains was affected by a deadly avalanche that swept through one of his ski groups in 2003. “There are many people who live above the valleys, and who love the mountains,” Porter says. “But there are few people who have the ability to impart their love of the mountains to other people.”
The quiet elegance of a traditional craft imbues the Swiss film L’eau qui fait tourner la roue, winner of the award for Best Film on Mountain Environment. “It’s minimalist, very simple,” Valli says. “It goes to the essential, the love of one man for his work, and in terms of film craft, it’s a beautiful piece.” Director Jean-Francois Amiguet’s story follows the Crisinel family, who settled at the foot of the Jura in 1900 to operate a traditional water mill and farm the land.
Alastair Lee’s The Asgard Project, winner of the award for Best Film on Climbing, follows alpinists Leo Houlding, Sean Leary, and Carlos Suarez as they make an ambitious attempt on the first free ascent of Mount Asgard in Baffin Island, an epic expedition on one of the toughest big walls in the world. “The audience fully takes part in this adventure,” Porter says. “The story isn’t just told to us through the narrator, and we ride a wave of emotions with the climbers.”
The jury made an unusual choice for Best Film on Mountain Sport, an irreverent, creative documentary that follows professional fly fisher Frank Smethurst as he goes off the grid on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia, one of the last truly wild landscapes left in the world. Shot with stunning visuals, Eastern Rises, by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, takes in Sasquatch sightings, mouse-eating trout, and an epic struggle with copious amounts of Russian vodka. “It’s really fresh, original, and funny,” jury member Susan Kelly says. “Those guys really love fishing, and that really comes through.”
Director / producer Christoph Rehage captured a stop-motion chronicle of his year-long walk through China, from Beijing to Urumqi, as people come and go in his life, and his facial hair comes and goes. The five-minute film The Longest Way tells a complex story in a spare and creative way, winning the award for Best Short Mountain Film.
The 2010 jury also chose two films for Special Jury Mentions: Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer’s Fly or Die, about free climber Dean Potter and his adaptation of the parachute into his climbing, and the hilarious short Cross Country Snowboarding, delivered meticulously in deadpan humour by Adam Brodie and Geoff McLean.
Sponsored by The Banff Centre, the Australian film Salt was given the Award for Creative Excellence, which provides up to $10,000 in video post-production services to filmmakers Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks. The film follows Fredericks, a photographer, alone into the heart of Lake Eyre in Southern Australia. Valli calls it “a feast of images, very original, and very spare.”
The Audio Post-Production Award, chosen by Banff Centre Audio program faculty and Emmy Award-winning sound mixer Orest Sushko, was given to director Stephen Grynberg for A Life Ascending. The purpose of the award is to help filmmakers produce surround DVD soundtracks for their projects while helping The Banff Centre further its goals in audio education and quality sound. The Award provides $10,000 in studio services and staff expertise in the Centre’s facilities.
The People’s Choice Awards, chosen by the audiences in Banff, included the Radical Reels People’s Choice Award, for Rush Sturges and Tyler Bradt’s Dream Result, and the Banff Mountain Film Festival People’s Choice Award, for A Life Ascending.
For 2010, the international jury included U.S. outdoor adventure athlete and climber Jacqueline Florine, executive producer Bruce Glawson of Discovery Channel Canada, Australian filmmaker and journalist Susan Kelly, U.K. mountaineer John Porter, former director of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, and celebrated French filmmaker/photographer Eric Valli.
Created 35 years ago, the Banff Mountain Film Festival has become the premier event of its kind in the world. The Festival showcases the world’s best films on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment, exploration and adventure, and sport – and attracts the biggest names in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and extreme sports as presenters and speakers. More than 60 films were screened during the nine-day festival, and an international jury awarded more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
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