The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival is going global.
The staple cultural event in the Bow Valley each fall has adapted to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings by launching the festival this year as an online event that can be attended by mountain film and book lovers from around the world from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8.
For festival director Joanna Croston, it is an exciting opportunity to reach new audiences in these unprecedented times.
"This will be the first time we will have not done a live event – this is our first online festival," Croston said. "Accessibility has always been a huge factor for us, even for remote communities in Canada. The [online festival] allows more people to see these films."
The rules around the coronavirus differ from place-to-place while the festival typically goes on tour each year with 1,200 screenings in 40 countries – things are looking a lot different this year for the World Tour. By offering the festival experience online, mountain film and book lovers will be able to attend regardless of location.
"Our fans seem to be keen as well," Croston said. "Luckily for us, film lends itself well to being watched at home on a big TV, although we will never be able to replace the spirit and community of the live event."
This is the 45th anniversary of the film and book festival and features a lineup of 75 films, authors and guest speakers from around the world.
"I am so proud of our festival team for the incredible work and vision to reorient plans for this year's festival year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," said president and CEO Janice Price in a press release. "The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival brings a global community of lovers of mountain culture to the Banff Centre each year.
"This year, we are excited to bring the festival to homes worldwide over nine remarkable days."
Having never before offered festival events online, Croston said organizers had to find an online platform that would meet the needs of the event. There was also a different process for securing licensing, as a global streaming broadcast is a lot different than a theatrical showing.
"Luckily for us, most of the filmmakers are really receptive to the virtual festival," she said. "It was easier in some ways than we anticipated, but given the nature of the pandemic, people are pretty adaptive."
Due to going virtual, the program will be presented differently overall. Croston said the film and book awards, as well as the Mountain Idol and Summit of Excellence, will be announced throughout the festival's events.
The 2020 Banff Mountain Book Competition includes categories for mountaineering article, guidebooks, mountain image, adventure travel and mountain environment and natural history. For mountain literature, finalists include David Smart for his book Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites published by Rocky Mountain Books and Bernadette McDonald for her book Winter 8000: Climbing the World's Highest Mountains in the Coldest Season published by Vertebrate Publishing.
While the virtual festival offers curated programs, workshops and events at specific dates and times, passholders will also be able to watch the feature films online at their own convenience.
Standouts include the Canadian film Nahanni River of Forgiveness, which follows Dehcho Dene in the Northwest Territories as he re-awakens his family's tradition of building a moose-skin boat and floating down the South Nahanni River.
Cholitas, which will only be available for viewing in Canada, is a Spanish film that tells the story of five Indigenous Bolivian women who undertake an expedition to reach the highest peak in the Americas – Aconcagua. Formerly cooks and helpers at base camps for international expeditions, the women decide to climb for themselves as a symbol of liberation and empowerment.
Bow Valley residents will recognize local legend Will Gadd in the film Will Power, which follows the Red Bull athlete in the Taihang Mountains of China looking for new ice climbing routes.
The mixed program includes the longtime favourite Snow Show – Fresh Tracks, which promises big air and lots of pow, just in time to get ready for winter's arrival. Out the Back Door offers adventures that are a bit closer to home like the 2019 film Choosing to Live.
It follows the journey of Canmore resident Sarah Hornby after her husband, adventure cyclist and author Ryan Correy passed away in 2017 from colon cancer at the age of 35. As part of her grieving process, Hornby decided to ride all 10 of the bikepacking routes Correy created in a year. It was a transformational journey captured by filmmakers Jeff Bartlett and Matthew Clark in this seven minute short.
The speakers and discussions that are part of the lineup are sure to offer something for everyone, especially locals. Indigenous Dialogues will focus on place names and how reinstating Indigenous names is an important aspect of decolonizing historic and modern narratives. This panel features the Banff Centre's Reneltta Arluk, Christie Harvie, Daryl Kootenay and Erynne Gilpin.
Mountain Guide Barry Blanchard will be interviewed by Geoff Powter – both Canmore residents – for Voices of Adventure. Powter's book Inner Ranges won the climbing literature award at the 2019 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival and Blanchard's book, The Calling – A life rocked by Mountains, was shortlisted for a past competition and won the Boardman Tasker prize for mountain literature.
Well-known local authors in the mountaineering community like Lynn Martel, Bernadette MacDonald and David Smart are taking part in Tales & Ales – parts one and two.
Author and photographer Bruce Kirkby will present his new book Blue Sky Kingdom – An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya, followed by an interview with Canadian writer John Valliant.
The book chronicles the bestselling writer's journey with wife Christine, seven-year-old Bodi and three-year-old Taj as they travelled from Kimberley, B.C. to a Buddhist monastery in the Zanskar Valley in India, where they spent three months of reflection and meditation.
Early bird festival passes are available until Oct. 15 for $125 and allow streaming of events on three devices. Tickets to individual screenings are available during the festival for $10-$20.
Go to the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival's website for the full schedule and to purchase tickets.