Banff on the run

Statistics prove that most of us will never go to Banff. In all probability, few of us could even point out exactly where it is on a map.

Crack attack: A still from the film Aerialist. Jimmy Chin, Courtesy The Banff Centre

But perhaps that doesn’t matter. Because, each year about this time, Banff comes to us.

This year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival will make two stops in Western North Carolina: in Brevard and Boone. The traveling picture show, which brings adventure, sports and environmental themes to the big screen at more than 350 locations worldwide, is a production of The Banff Centre (, located in the resort city in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Among the films to be featured locally this year are director Jason Berry’s 24 Solo, which follows mountain biker Chris Eatough’s bid to win a seventh consecutive world championship in the 24 Hours of Adrenalin race. A wiry and grim-faced racer, Eatough prevailed during races in China and Wisconsin, only to face the struggle of his life on the sere granite hills of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Cameraman Nick Alexander actually participated in the race, his shaky, lactic-acid-fueled footage enhancing the film’s impact.

20 Seconds of Joy, a feature-length film directed by Jens Hoffmann and produced by the German company F24 Film, chronicles the death-defying life and rare brio of Karina Hollekim, a 30-year-old Norwegian B.A.S.E. parachute-jumper. Hollekim’s career came to an abrupt halt during a botched jump in 2006 that reduced her legs to a rubble of 25 open fractures.

“I don’t want to die—I want to live,” Hollekim proclaims in the film. “I’m pretty good at running away, and this is my escape!”

Another character-driven documentary is Aerialist, directed by Brad Lynch, which follows climber Dean Potter’s obsessive drive to free himself from gravity’s pull. The quest leads him to sports such as high-lining, B.A.S.E. jumping and something called “bird-manning.”

In Ice Mines, directed by Will Gadd, ice climbers discover what seems to be an invulnerable refuge for their sport in an age of climate change: abandoned mineshafts in Sweden, full of icicles, ice walls and frozen overhangs. Of Nora, a forsaken mine east of Stockholm, Gadd says there are “no trolls, no Orcs or whatever else lives in mines, but plenty of cool ice and just a wild place—a little bit frightening, but definitely cool.”

In Dannemora, whose history dates back 600 years, Gadd journeys into a mine that offers “a Dr. Seuss comic book with ice. … It’s completely over the top, with the nuttiest, weirdest, most insane ice. I could never have imagined this.” Lucky for those of us who lack sufficient frequent-flier miles with SAS, Gadd took his camera with him to this most marvelous of places.

Trial & Error finds mountain biker Ryan Leech pedaling through the fog-draped woods of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, subjecting himself to all manner of natural and human-made obstacles. What bums Leech out, though, is the fact that his forest playground is slated to be clear-cut, a fate that brings with it all sorts of metaphorical implications.

“There is an analogy between my riding and what they’re doing,” Leech says breathlessly. “To me, it seems that a clear-cut is exactly like a crash. They’ve done it time and time again and perhaps haven’t learned from their mistakes. It’s my hope that some of these practices can be reworked to preserve some of these magical zones … so we all can go out and enjoy them, whether it is for riding, hiking or just hanging out in the middle of nowhere and enjoying nature.”

The Banff Mountain Film Festival makes only three stops in North Carolina, two of them in WNC. “We are very fortunate to have it here,” says Rob Seay, associate dean of students at Brevard College. Getting Banff to Brevard requires months of planning, courting sponsors and advertising as far afield as Atlanta. “It takes a lot of hard work,” says Seay.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the college’s Outing Club, Cycling Club and outdoor-recreation programs.

Reel nice

The Banff Mountain Film Festival comes to Brevard College Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in the Porter Center for Performing Arts.

Advance tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for faculty and staff, and $5 for students with a valid ID. Admission is $15 the day of the show. For more information or to buy tickets, call 884-8127. Tickets are also available at Nali Outdoor Wear and Mast General Stores.

Appalachian State University will host the festival Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Farthing Auditorium. Tickets are $7/students and $9/nonstudents in advance, and $12 at the door. A sellout is expected, so early purchase is encouraged. Call 262-4077 for more information.


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