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MyShrews Reviews: The Banff Mountain Film Festival
19 May 2022

The Banff Mountain Film Festival always attracts a good following in Shrewsbury - and no wonder. It's the perfect antidote to the daily grind, says reviewer Katy Rink.

Once you've discovered the brilliant Banff Mountain Film Festival, you'll move heaven and earth not to miss it when it stops off in Shrewsbury on its world tour. 

It's a selection of the best short adventure and exploration films from the past year, showcasing the thrill of extreme sports in the great outdoors and the majesty of the mountains. Judges choose the pick of the bunch from over 300 films submitted to the festival in Banff - these then tour cinemas across the globe, carrying their messages of resilience, endurance and hope. 

Exit the North Pole

Borge Ousland and Mike Horn endure -45 degree temperatures during their brutal 1,500km ski expedition across the North Pole

The films are not in the least preachy and are carefully curated to avoid repetition. Each has a different, compelling narrative and setting, whether it's the frozen, Arctic Ocean, 85 degrees North (Exit the North Pole), which, it turns out, is not nearly frozen enough for a 1,500km stress free crossing, or the towering rock faces of Dubh Slabs, on Skye, which pro mountain biker Danny MacAskill has the sheer audacity to tackle on two wheels - the offering is immense and our enjoyment, assured. 

The Slabs Danny MacAskill

Danny MacAskill demonstrates gravity defying cycling on the sheer rock faces of The Dubh Slabs 

Obviously, since we are talking adventure, there are feats of eye-watering levels of endurance and improbable courage - the guys pulling their sleds on skis across wafer thin ice in minus 40 degrees in 24-hour darkness for two months in Exit the North Pole have clearly either recently been through, or require, a frontal lobotomy. Borge Ousland and Mike Horn's incredible feat was described by National Geograpic as 'the boldest polar expedition of modern times' - they very nearly didn't make it. 

But there are also tales of recovery - in Learning to Drown, world famous snowboarder Jess Kimura, from British Columbia, turns to the healing power of the waves off Mexico's Baja Peninsula, in  to help overcome grief and depression. Described as one of the most influential snowboaders of the last decade, Jess went on to host grassroots events to support young female snowboarders. 

From the film A Hole New Experience showing the plughole

Nothing beats watching a snowboarder go down the plughole, however - the delicious payoff offered by Inside - A Hole New Ski Experience. The hole (pictured here) is actually the opening of a cave system in the Grand Ferrand Massif, in the French Alpes, with an entrance and exit on a snowy mountainside; it spits the boarder out relatively unscathed. Cool or what? In search of even greater subterranean adventure, freeriders Stefan Ager and Andreas Gumpenberger spend three nights travelling through a huge cave in Slovenia which has an exit 800 vertical metres higher than the entry. They pop out in the snow, ready for an adrenaline-fuelled descent, though quite how they had the energy to ski after three days hauling their stuff through impossible gaps in the cave, is not fully explored. 

Sherpa Pasang sets off to climb Cholatse in Nepal

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita sets off to climb Cholatse with her first born in tow, in 'Dream Mountain' - Credit: Cira Crowell

Dream Mountain introduces Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, who is determined to continue climbing mountains after the birth of her first child. It's toe-curling to watch her leave him behind in base camp on his birthday, whilst she heads off to summit the perilous Nepalese peak, Cholatse, but the genius cinematography gradually opens our eyes to Pasang's reality and the magnetic attraction of the high peaks - her 'home'. Her dream is her dream, and who is anyone to deny her? 

The dogs chasing mountain bikes across trails in South Africa, British Columbia and Utah, in A Dog's Tale (or should that be Trail?), is a light-hearted opener to an evening perfectly calibrated to give us the fullest emotional response. 

You'll come out either wishing yourself up a mountain somewhere, or quietly determined to never ever do anything risky yourself. Banff sorts the true spirits from the armchair adventurers. Be careful taking your children - you might not get them back. 

If you love the Banff Mountain Film Festival, you also love the sister show, the Ocean Film Festival World Tour. Same idea, different setting. It comes to Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn on Wednesday, October 26th 2022. Book your tickets early HERE