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Annual Banff Film Festival Draws Juneau Crowds

The lights slowly dimmed and all eyes were drawn to the screen at the end of the room. Music began to play and suddenly the audience was entranced by the images on the screen: scenes of people climbing impossible rock walls, skiing through perfect powder and cutting ice from a glacier in Peru like they have been doing for generations. A big voice then comes onto the speakers, welcoming everyone to the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

By: Mallory Millay

The lights slowly dimmed and all eyes were drawn to the screen at the end of the room. Music began to play and suddenly the audience was entranced by the images on the screen: scenes of people climbing impossible rock walls, skiing through perfect powder and cutting ice from a glacier in Peru like they have been doing for generations. A big voice then comes onto the speakers, welcoming everyone to the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
On February 5 and 6, the UAS Student Government hosted the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which drew large crowds of viewers wanting to experience the 14 films from around the world chosen by The Banff Centre to celebrate mountain culture and the spirit of adventure.
It was fascinating to see the diversity of films people from all over the world can produce. Both nights featured a wide variety of films from skiing  and mountain climbing films like “Patagonian Winter” to a film about two humorous British climbers attempting a winter climb of the Patagonian peak of Torre Egger.
The two shortest films: “The Red Helmet,” a six minute long film, and Papiroflexia,” a mere three minutes, were both films about seeing the world in different ways; one with the help of a red helmet and the other through the art of origami.
Also featured was the close-to–home environmental film “Red Gold” which gave the opinions of many Alaskans about the Pebble Mine that Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. has proposed to build near the headwaters of the two largest sockeye salmon runs on the planet.  
Stephanie Gignac, formerly of Montreal Canada but now residing in Banff, Canada, was the onsite coordinator or “road warrior” from the Banff Center. Gignac was chosen to travel across North America showing the films. She was at Centennial Hall to introduce each of the films as well as answer questions people might have about Banff.
According to Gignac, there are 24 films licensed and available on the world tour but not all of the films shown are the actual winners of the Banff Film Festival.  Films are mixed and match when it comes to the selection to offer a variety that provides a balanced program.
“At the festival, we have 263 films, from 37 different countries. We try to chose some of the winners who won in Banff but we also pick films that the public really enjoyed or that we think tell a stories that would be compelling to the communities we are going to be visiting. We don’t want to just show action adventure.  We like to show more cultural films, like Shikashika,” Gignac stated.
Gignac also said that she thought the most popular films needed to have a story as well as action and adventure. “I think the most popular kinds of film would be the films about action, travel, adventure but that have a story, kind of like 99 Days on the Ice, like that kind of film because there is a sport involved but you feel for the character, instead of just seeing characters bike or ski.  The films that tell a story and gives a little bit of behind the scenes insight seem to flow very well.”
Courtney Wendel, a 19-year-old junior from Juneau, said she particularly enjoyed “Patagonian Winter” out of the second night’s movie line-up.  “There were these funny European guys who were going to climb this mountain in Patagonia.  Most of the films were like ‘I am awesome and this is what I did,’ but in this one they didn’t end up making it at all and everything went horrible. It was hilarious!”
Also present at the event was UAS math teacher, Brian Blitz, who has been attending the film festival for the last six years. Blitz said he enjoyed the two films “Crux,” a film in which bike riders re-define technical riding with their amazing stunts and the film “The Sharp End: Lisa Rands,” a film featuring the challenges of boulder climbing. “I think it [the film festival] is excellent. I usually enjoy all of the films,” Blitz said.
During the intermissions after three films there was a raffle to see who would win a number of prizes including a backpack, a tarp or a hoodie from Mountain Hardware, Outdoor Research and Deuter outfitters, but there was a catch.  The first night if your ticket was called you had to “make a happy noise” as Gignac called it, which called for you to yell or cheer to get your prize. The second night if your ticket was called you had to cheer and do a dance. Some were more enthusiastic than others.
Banff has been visiting Juneau for about 16 years according to Gignac. “The film festival itself is 33-years-old, but it’s been going on for 16 years or 17 years, since 1993, in Juneau.”  Banff has visited nearly 30 countries in the last 5 years.
 
 

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