BANFF – With the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival going online this year, it puts a new spin on a timeless event.
From Oct. 31 to Nov. 8, the festival’s big-ticket event features adventure and mountain culture films, book readings, panel discussions, speakers, and a virtual marketplace with organizers committing to make the international competition more accessible to its audiences.
“Our plan is to have as many people from many different backgrounds attending as possible,” said Joanna Croston, festival director at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
“We’ll potentially reach a bigger global audience than we have before … the accessibility of the festival has never been better and it’s a pretty exciting thing for us.”
In previous years, watching a live event cost about $35. This year, audiences will be able to watch for about $10 to $15. Some select content will also be free to access online. Tickets and access passes go on sale in mid-September.
Croston announced the ski film Lhotse will be featured this year, which is about Americans Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson completing the first descent of Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world in the Himalayas at over 8,500 metres.
The duo was originally going to attend the screening, but organizers have been brainstorming how to replace the organic, social side of the festival that adds to the charm of attending a live event.
“Our plan is to offer more direct audience experience with filmmakers available, so our plan is to have a daily meet the filmmakers event,” said Croston, adding Morrison and Nelson are keen to do a virtual talk at the screening.
The festival typically drew more than 20,000 visitors to Banff over its nine days, but the digital format offers a safer way to host due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Alberta, despite movie theatres opening at reduced capacity, Croston said 82 people would be allowed in its 630-seat Jenny Belzberg Theatre. However, those entertaining the idea to get out and watch some of the films in the Bow Valley will be able to do so as organizers are working with the Lux Cinema in Banff and artsPlace in Canmore for small screenings of its films.
Following the 2020 festival, Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour will start live events "where restrictions on activities and health will allow."
“The health and safety of our audience and community is top of mind as we consider the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour,” said Jim Baker, world tour manager, in a press release. “After a pause, the 2019-20 world tour is now being presented online in some countries, and in reduced capacity live events where the guidance of health authorities allows. We continue to work with local organizers for more opportunities to safely share these incredible films."