Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at Cheltenham Town Hall

Banff Mountain Film Festival

Banff Mountain Film Festival - Credit: Archant

This year showcases a selection of the most breathtaking and remarkable films from the global mountain and sports community.

The great outdoors is experiencing a resurgence in popularity at the moment. This seems to be part of a wider desire to lead healthier lives, combined with a greater appreciation of the natural landscape around us and the improved marketing of leisure tourism and free activities such as hiking and cycling. For some, Mother Nature’s mountains, lakes and desserts have become a playground for adventure, taking them to places far off the beaten track.

In the spectacular Canadian Rockies they have been celebrating those with an intrepid spirit for the past 40 years at The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. In many respects similar to our own Cheltenham Literature Festival, the annual nine day event attracts some of the very best writers, photographers and film makers from around the world and sees hundreds of films entered into various different categories.

For the past seven years the spin off World Tour has also been increasing in popularity and now boasts a worldwide audience of 500,000 people from 1000 screenings in 40 countries - 85 of which take place in the UK and Ireland between January and May each year. These are impressive stats.

Of the numerous films entered into the 2015 competition, only 14 were selected to go on tour and there are two programmes, red and blue. The Cheltenham screening showed the ‘red’ tour; 7 films with subjects ranging from climbing, mountain biking, skiing and running (both ultra marathon and free), through to the touching story of a man’s bond with his dog and an epic ride across the USA from the Mexican to Canadian borders in a bid to highlight the plight of mustang horses.

As a festival first-timer I didn’t really know what to expect; however I was soon captivated by the stories and found myself rooting for the individuals involved, as well as privileged to have an insight into the personal challenges they had set themselves.

There were moments when my heart was in my mouth, for example watching a dramatic fall on skis near the top of a mountain in Alaska; a risky 2000ft free climbing section up to a peak in the Fitz Roy traverse in Patagonia; and a nail-biting horse ride along a ledge above the Grand Canyon. There were also laugh out loud moments courtesy of a very stubborn and vocal donkey, as well as plentiful dry humour which seems to be a common trait of those with an adventurous spirit. I came away feeling energised and inspired to get outside.

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The tour itself continues throughout May, and then in August the line up for the 2016 festival will be announced. I am already excited to learn which films will win a coveted place on the 2016 world tour...

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