Where the Wild Things Are
Banff Mountain Film Festival peeks
Like an epinephrine shot, the 2015 Banff Mountain Film Festival is set to rev up audiences with incredible displays of human strength and courage. The secret weapon, though, is the majesty of Earth itself, and the powerful relationships between people and place. Better every year, this touring Canadian film fest has matured into an international champion, with bang-up tricks and new bonuses of more female athletes, more mindfulness, and more emotion.
Saturday's Radical Reels roster boasts eight riveting short films. In "Dream," a newbie kayaker imagines his impending ride as pros paddle by. His lighthearted inner monologue sounds against a rushing white-capped river, while other kayakers armed with fire lasers rave to EDM. In "All My Own Stunts," pro mountain-bike racer and stuntman, Rob Jarman, reminisces about a nasty crash and heavy sadness. Naturally, the best cure is to set a speed record, so Jarman straps on a GoPro and takes the audience along, capturing hearts with honesty and an incurable thirst for fun.
An identifiable wild streak runs through the films. "Desert Ice" features breathtaking shots of land and sky, with tension provided by the possibility of a fatal fall. "It's got that wild feel to it," explains professional ice climber Jesse Huey, on climbing a hidden desert cliff of sheer iced insanity. Bonus: Part-time Austin band Leopold and His Fiction plays on the soundtrack.
Thirteen World Tour films, ranging from heartfelt tales to environmental odyssey, screen Sunday. Running long-distance trails transports New Zealand native Ruby Muir back to nature from the modern world's constant buzz. "Just Keep Running" is beautiful in its simplicity: Muir tells of her late father, her struggle with obsession, and how core values and companionship shaped her winning story.
What will likely prove a festival favorite, "14.c" introduces indoor/outdoor rock-climbing star Kai Lightner and his superhero single mom, his biggest supporter. At 14, Lightner was scooping up competition medals across the globe. Charming and inspirational, this wonder duo puts education first, but happily sacrifices for Kai's practice. Mom: "No matter what you choose to do in life, there are gonna be obstacles. With climbing, if you set your goals high enough there's no way you're gonna walk through the door and immediately reach those goals. Because of the nature of the sport itself you have to be disciplined."
Similar dedication is manifested in "Delta Dawn," a gorgeous short by famed National Geographic photographer and filmmaker Pete McBride about his passion for the Colorado River. His team's paddleboarding, bushwhacking journey to free the river from man-made barriers and bone-dry land combines science, politics, and fiestas in an attempt to save the river – and all the life it gives. This film is hopeful, progressive, and certainly eye-opening.
Austin's own Faith Dickey, a professional slackliner and highliner, is the subject of "Wild Women." Her specialty is balancing on a tightrope-like strip of nylon webbing suspended between two points, usually very high in the air. Set to her own music, Dickey narrates the stunning footage with explanations of how crazy she is not and the gender differentials in extreme sports: "There's no difference when you're fighting with your own mind and your own fear." As for what qualifies her as wild, she says, "I wasn't raised by wolves and I don't have hairy armpits, but I suppose if wild means I don't fit into societal norms and I don't live by another person's rules, then I am pretty wild."
Whole Earth Provision Co. hosts Austin's dual nights of extreme-sports footage at the Paramount Theatre. Proceeds benefit Texas State Parks.
Radical Reels plays Saturday, April 18, at 7pm; World Tour screens Sunday, April 19, at 6pm. See www.wholeearthprovision.com/banff for complete lineup and ticket info.