Fans of mountaineering and global cinema will receive a rare treat this week from one of Canada’s premier educational institutions.
The world-renowned Banff Mountain Film Festival is bringing its collection of award-winning movies to the Lyric Theatre on Wednesday. Tickets for the event, which are only available from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports located in First & Main, cost $13 in advance and $15 the day of the show.
The festival is a project of the Alberta-based Banff Centre, a not-for-profit cultural institution offering education in a wide array of areas from traditional arts to mathematical research. Each year — the 2010 Festival was the 35th iteration — nearly 300 films based around a common theme of mountains are submitted to the Banff Centre. A committee narrows the offerings down to approximately 50 to 60 films chosen to screen during the multiday event.
When the festival lights dim, Banff World Tour manager Jim Baker’s job begins. To prepare for the tour — a global event reaching more than 200,000 people in more than 30 countries on all seven continents — Baker and the Centre narrow the selections down to about 25 films offering audiences a taste of that year’s presentation.
“The idea that we’re looking for is to provide the kind of diverse and wide ranging experience you can have here at the festival in a very condensed format,” Baker said.
Vans leave three days after the November festival to deliver the films to local communities. Baker said the tour is a hot commodity — the Banff Centre receives more requests for appearances than it has the ability to cater to.
Each stop on the world tour is set up by a local organizer who works with Baker and his team to prepare a show specifically tuned to the local audience’s tastes. These local organizations, like Blacksburg’s Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, generally pick five to eight of the provided festival films to screen at the event.
Baker said the titles shown at each stop vary because of the sheer diversity of films available.
“Our selection always includes a wide range of films, everything from dynamic adrenaline-fueled action sports to looks at remote cultures and traditional cultures, environmental issues, adventures, exploration,” he said.
Films provided on this year’s tour (though not necessarily playing on the Blacksburg stop) range from sporting adventures such as “The Asgard Project,” which follows three top mountain climbers in a dangerous Arctic free ascent, to human interest stories such as “Tibet: Murder in the Snow” about the controversial killing of a Tibetan nun by Chinese border police.
Baker attributes the tour’s success to the universal appeal of the subject matter.
“The films that we show, one doesn’t need to live in a mountainous place, one doesn’t need to be a climber to enjoy,” he said. “There are stories of the amazing natural world, of amazing people, of extraordinary adventures, of challenge, sometimes tragedy, sometimes triumph which speaks to anyone.”
The Lyric advises local mountaineering aficionados, cinephiles and anyone interested in a night spent on dizzying peaks looking to attend the festival to purchase tickets soon as last year’s show sold out.