Banff Mountain Film Festival 2016 - Glasgow

On Tuesday night I went to the Banff Mountain Film festival tour at the SECC; presented by Cotswold Outdoor and Keen. Glasgow was showing only one set of the films- the red set- whilst the blue set had been shown in Edinburgh in January (I sadly missed this night). We ran late and arrived just before the start, but luckily seating was well organised so we didn't miss anything. I didn't get any event photos, so in the outdoors-loving spirit of the night I've used photos of the mountains taken by myself and my dad to illustrate the post.

Taken by dad in Scotland, unsure of location.

First up was unReal, which focused on dirt and mountain bikers. Whilst it was well-shot and did convey the adrenaline of the sport, I just wasn't that interested in the topic matter. It also made mountain biking look like a bit of a boy's club. I was disappointed to find out that the dirt rain was not in fact a real weather phenomenon and had been created by the film makers! You can see a short version here

Next up was Curiosity- a film about the UTMB which focused on Olsen, Koerner, and Bosio. So interesting to see three totally different approaches and outcomes to such a challenging race. Rory Bosio has such crazy energy, you get the impression that she is trying to lose some of it somewhere. She seems to be having such fun, a thought which was confirmed for me by this Outside Online article. And the woman is also a pediatric nurse! What an amazing human. On the other hand, Timothy Olsen is running from his demons. The film really conveyed his worry- if this is what is keeping him from the dark side, and keeping his family afloat, if this is his job... what happens if he can't pull it off? UTMB is the first ever DNF Olsen has recorded, and you could tell that pulling out was an immense decision for him to make. Hal Koerner (the smiliest man in ultrarunning) definitely seemed more disappointed than he was letting on to be pulling out early with an injury. He was trying to kill sadness with a smile. You can view a version of Curiosity here

Taken by dad in Scotland, unsure of location.

Unbranded followed. This film was one of the festival's People's Choice Award winners. It follows a group of young men attempting to ride from the south to north US borders (so Mexico to Canada) using only previously wild mustangs. There was a side message in there about protecting wild lands and wild creatures (they spoke about the importance of it being possible to ride these distances and not use a road). I did find the film beautifully shot, and I loved the real personalities in the horses and riders in addition to the relationship between the elderly man helping them out and the boys. However, as an ex-rider myself I found some of the irresponsibility shown towards the horses' well being upsetting (such as having them climb up loose shale cliffs). The trailer is available here

A mountain on the drive to Skye.
During the break I chatted to some friends- we saw so many people there that we knew from various outdoorsy activities. It was a very stereotypical crowd- lots of Merrell shoes and North Face Summit Series jackets. I also popped to the Cotswold Outdoor sponsors stand and entered their social media competition 'What the Outdoors Means to You' (see my entry here). There were a ton of free Clif bars going as they also sponsored the event (Peanut Crunch- winning! White chocolate macademia is pretty good too). 

Taken from the Whangie by dad; I have practically the same photo but his is better quality!

The first film after the break was Denali, a touching film about the relationship between dog and man and their shared love of the outdoors that I had seen before. At only 7 minutes long it is a gorgeous but very sad short film- it made my dad tear up (sorry dad)! I don't want to spoiler it by saying any more, but you can watch it all on Vimeo here.

Next came an abbreviated version of Pretty Faces, a film about female skiers. I found this film strangely cut- they introduce several women but then focus only on one without that being clear earlier. The landscapes covered are stunning, and it is hugely scary when she triggers an avalanche. I just feel we could have done with more background on the skier in the shortened version so we were more invested in her dreams. You can see the trailer here

Ben Lui.
Penultimately, we watched A Line Across the Sky, which covers Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell's fantastic traverse of the Cerro Fitz Roy skyline range. This film has more of a personal feel as it is shot mainly by Honnold and Caldwell themselves. It's less glossy than some of the others but more intense, real, and really very funny in places. The challenge was insane, particularly given Honnold's massive lack of alpine experience. There is also some very interesting discussion about risk from Caldwell's point of view now he has a child and a spouse. Despite the risk and the cold and the pain, the footage makes it crystal clear that they are always loving it. There is an abbreviated version here

Glencoe, taken by dad.

The evening concluded with a charming short film- Homefree- about free running (parkour) on the Isle of Man, created by a native islander in collaboration with the tourist board. It had a real sense of movement, and freedom in abundance, and scenery appreciation. This was emphasised by the great music choice. I've been to the Isle of Man three or more times, but this made me look at the landscape in a completely new way. It's available to watch in its entirety here

All in all, a fantastic night and some brilliant films. I'll be hunting down the films from the blue set online to watch those too!


Have you ever been to a film festival? 

Have you been to the Banff Mountain film festival before? Do you like films about the mountains?

 Post written by Scallywag and published on Scallywag Sprints on 19/02/16


  1. I love Banff film festival, and always come away super inspired. I won the top prize of a pair of Keen hiking boots last year at it, which have meant WAY more hikes this year than I would otherwise have done.
    It sounds like this year, they've fixed the gender imbalance a little bit - the programme I saw last year featured NO WOMEN AT ALL. I was really frustrated by it, particularly when it doesn't reflect the reality of amazing sportwomen and endurance athletes that I see in my own world, like Susie Chan and Mimi Anderson.

    1. NICE ONE. I was really jealous of all the winners!

      Im really glad that the gender balance has improved, the blue set seems to be pretty mixed gender too! And you are so right- I could tell them of at least 10 amazing female athletes they could cover (Susie Chan,Mimi Anderson, Challenge Sophie, Steph Davies, Lucja Leonard... and many many more).

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I love film festivals! One of the non-profits that I work with a lot hosts the Wild & Scenic Film Festival which are mainly environmental and adventure films. Like Banff, you can apply to host an On Tour stop, which my organization does as a fundraiser. This is the 11th year we're hosting it, and it's one of my favorite parts of my job. I get to do a lot of film watching while we're building our film program, so I saw Denali (tears!), A Line Across the Sky, Unreal and Homefree, as well as many others! My other favorites I've seen this year were Mile After Mile (ultra runners run across a new national park in Patagonia) and Martin's Boat (history of paddling the Grand Canyon and environmental protection).

    Have you seen the Reel Rock Film Festival? It's a climbing focused collection of short climbing films that goes on tour. There were zero featured women. It was terrible.

    1. I'll check out Mile After Mile and Martin's Boat, thank you for the recommendations- your job sounds awesome!

      Reel Rock Film Festival was in Edinburgh in October but I didn't catch it. Incredible shame that they featured no women, especially considering that climbing is so much more equal than other outdoor sports.