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Winners announced for Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival

The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival, now in its 46th year, ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 and announced the winners for its prestigious awards that go to filmmakers and authors.
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Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation at the Banff Centre on Thursday (Feb. 11). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

BANFF – An in-person and virtual hybrid model saw fans come out in droves for the popular Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

The festival, now in its 46th year, ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 and announced the winners for its prestigious awards that go to filmmakers and authors.

The film grand prize went to "The Rescue", directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. The documentary is about 12 young soccer players and their coach being trapped inside a cave for 16 days in Thailand during monsoon floods before their eventual rescue.

“This real-life Mission Impossible played out on television screens at the time of the 2018 FIFA World Cup sets out to save the 12 young Thai footballers and their coach from almost certain death, as they become trapped in a deep cave deluged by a downpour in northern Thailand,” said Kesang Tseten, a film competition jury member in a media release.

“An assorted team is tasked with this mission, made up of the Thai Navy Seals, U.S. Air Force Special Forces and volunteer cave divers, whose cave-diving know-how, as well as their courage and self-deprecation is notably striking. The live footage of weeks of the rescue mission in dark subterranean caves, against a ticking clock before the onset of the next rains, knitted together with archival footage, enactments, and interviews, make for documentary as gripping cinema.”

The prize also comes with a $4,000 monetary award. The judging was completed by Tseten, Suzan Beraza, Paul Pritchard, Devyani Saltzman and Bachar Khattar.

Rounding out the awards were "The Magnitude of All Things" in the creative excellence category, "Exit the North Pole" for the top exploration and adventure film and "Horse Tamer" in the mountain culture category. The climbing division went to "They/Them", mountain sports category to "The River Runner" and snow sports category was awarded to "Learning to Drown".

The mountain environment and natural history category went to "Tigre Gente" and "From My Window" captured the best short film. Torn won the best feature length film.

The Phyllis and Don Monday award for the top book went to Suzanne Simard for her "Finding the Mother Tree".

The New York Times bestselling book has Simard, an expert on plant communication and intelligence, share the importance of trees in connecting and sustaining the world, while also telling her story of how she came to respect and discover their role in the environment.

“It's wonderful when a book can change the way we perceive the world around us,” stated a media release from the book competition jury members. “Throughout Finding the Mother Tree, Simard alludes to the awareness of Indigenous First Nation peoples for the wisdom of the forest – the caring networks of trees and other organisms, including humans.

“She has used the scientific method and her own inspirational grit and determination to make us remember this forgotten knowledge. Moreover, in discovering and explaining at an ecological, biological and chemical level, she has substantially enhanced this knowledge. By relating it in a manner our industrialized world will understand, Simard is showing us the reasons why we need to change our ways.”

The book competition judging was done by Heather Dawe, Bernadette McDonald and Pete Takeda and the prize award was $4,000.

In other book categories, the mountain literature non-fiction prize went to "Structured Chaos" by Victor Saunders and "Dammed If You Don’t" by Chris Kalmon won mountain fiction and poetry category. Finding the "Mother Tree" also captured the mountain environment and natural history prize.

"Two Trees Make a Forest" by Jessica J. Lee won adventure travel award, "The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland" by Guy Robertson earned top spot in mountain image and "Irish Peaks" won in the guidebooks category. The mountaineering article award went to "Letters to a Young Climber" by Doug Robinson and Sarah-Jane Dobner’s "A Feel for Rock" won for climbing literature prize.

The international jury for both book and film awards hand out more than $40,000 in prizes.

There were 76 different films presented during the nine-day festival and live events took place in both Banff and Canmore. They received 375 film submissions, coming from 11 different countries and featured 18 world premieres.