Slippery slopes

Will Gadd photo by Christian Pondella

Danielle Devereaux speaks with outdoor enthusiast and film festival organizer Laura Pike about the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is an international film competition held annually in Banff, Alberta. The main theme of the festival is, not surprisingly, mountain subjects.

Films are screened and prizes awarded the first weekend in November and then a selection of the films (winners included of course) hit the road. On January 27 and 28 the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will be stopping in St. John’s.

Outdoor enthusiast Laura Pike has been integral to bringing the BMFFWT to St. John’s for the past 12 years. From the selection of clips and film descriptions handed out by festival organizers at the Banff Centre, she and co-organizer Trevor Pike select the St. John’s lineup.
  
“Each location chooses what they think will show well in their area,” she says. “We usually rely heavily on the Banff Centre itself to tell us what’s been showing well and of course we try to show the winners.”
   
One film sure to make the final cut is Aweberg, a documentary by Will Gadd, a guy who thought climbing icebergs off the coast of Labrador would be ‘fun.’ Touted as one of Canada’s top ice climbers, Gadd lives in Canmore, Alberta. He and co-climber Ben Firth managed to convince a local boat owner to drive them out to the icebergs, get close enough for them to step on to the ice and then drive back out to the iceberg to pick them up.
   
Their berg-chauffer has never quite had a job like this before.
   
“When I see you drive that pick in it’s just the same as shooting a gun. You can hear the echo within the iceberg,” he says. “To my knowledge of ice, that crack that you hear means something’s splitting and that’s not a healthy sign. I don’t know how you feel, but to me that’s an iceberg-splitting sound… Once your feet hit the ice I’m out of there.” Full-speed reverse.
   
The written description of Aweberg says the pocking, splintering echo we hear on film sounds even louder in real life. The film may have been awarded special jury mention in Banff, but iceberg climbing would not be on my list of fun, or even sane things to do. However, Laura assures me the festival isn’t just about watching adventurous/crazy people tempting fate in Red Bull helmets. “The filmmakers come from all over the world,” she says. “We get humorous films, environmental films, mountain culture, extreme sports, all sorts.”
   
The whole extreme-sport thing makes me a little anxious – it’s all fun and games till someone severs their spinal cord – but the film festival will definitely be exciting. While some of the films are made by and for adventurers with what looks like from where I’m sitting, a death wish, there will also be films to appeal to the more humble outdoor enthusiast and even the armchair adventurer.
   
“We get a big range. There’s people that come for the cultural films, there’s what we call our adrenaline junkie, the part of our audience that comes for the extreme films, mountain bikers, kayakers, snowboarder, skiers. We get young teenagers right up to people in their 60s and 70s. So it’s a really diverse audience.”
   
Originally the only fundraiser for an outdoor club at MUN (now defunct), proceeds of the festival continue to help support outdoor activities and healthy living in the community. In the past, donations have been made to the East Coast Trail Association, the Neil Hardy Hiking and Adventure Club and the MUN Food Bank.
   
The festival used to include an evening and daytime screening, but the daytime slot has been scrapped in favor of two evening shows: “The couple of years that we did the Sunday matinee show it didn’t go over so well because most of our audience, if it were a nice day, wanted to be outdoors.”

The St. John’s leg of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will take place January 27 and 28 at the Inco Innovation Centre, MUN campus. Doors open at 6:30 and the films start at 7:00. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Check the local website www.ucs.mun.ca/~outdoor/ for information on the final line-up of adventurous, mountainous films.

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