Climb Every Mountain — Popular Banff documentary film festival returns to UCSB for two days

There are film festivals that you go to in the mountains, like Sundance and Telluride. And then there are film festivals that come from the mountains to you. That would be the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which swings past UCSB this Tuesday and Wednesday for two days of the best in mountain-themed documentaries, from climbing to gliding.

The festival has been coming to UCSB on tour since 1992. The festival originally started as a community event in Banff, Canada. It was a way, Fest coordinator Seana Strain says, of bridging the gap between the summer and winter recreational seasons. It gained such popularity that the festival was taken on the road. The first tour went across Canada only, but the word of mouth spread. Today, the tour hits 30 cities worldwide, and even includes a few shows in the Antarctic, making this viewable in all seven continents.

“It obviously speaks to people,” Strain says. “When we visit certain communities it just seems to blossom to neighboring places.”

Tuesday evening’s screenings starts in Europe with “MedeoZ,” featuring six different sports enjoyed in the Mont Blanc region, including base jumping. “Mustang — Journey of Transformation” features Richard Gere narration and an appearance by the Dalai Lama in a tale of preserving the monasteries in the Himalayan kingdom of Mustang. “First Ascent: Alone on the Wall” is not for the faint of heart, as it details Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of Yosemite’s Half Dome.

“That’s an audience favorite. Whether you’re a climber or not, it gets your heart pounding and your palms sweating. And yet the beauty is you are introduced to his mother and his wife, and he seems like a pretty ordinary guy. Apart from the fact that he climbs 1,000-foot walls with his bare hands.”

“Kranked — Revolve” documents dirt, trail, freeride, slopestyle and downhill mountain bike riding all around the world. “Birdman of the Karakorum” refers to John Silvester, who takes Alun Hughes on a tandem flight high above the wintry ranges of Pakistan.

Wednesday starts off with “Project Megawoosh” (about designing the world’s tallest water slide), and includes “Solo,” about Andrew McAuley’s ill-fated attempt to solo kayak from Australia to New Zealand, “Mont Blanc Speed Flying,” and ends with Dominic Gil’s “Take a Seat.” Gil biked 32,000 kilometers, from the northern tip of Alaska to the southern tip of South America, on a tandem bike. But his passengers were all people he picked up along the way. It’s a humorous, rollicking adventure, designed to send people out with a smile.

“Filmmakers are great about showing ordinary people with extraordinary abilities,” Strain says.

Banff Mountain Film Festival also sends out a tailor-made program to each city, a list of 27 films from the 60 shown in Banff. Strain says that the festival looks to viewer feedback on their Web site and talks to local coordinators every year and then makes a playlist.

“Santa Barbara likes climbing films and human interest,” Strain says. “We also make sure to include a cultural component, that’s why we’re showing ‘Mustang.’ ”

“There’s a lot of loyalty to the program,” Strain says of the UCSB crowd and the festival fans. “It helps us keep our eyes open. It’s really an audience-built tour.”


When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: UCSB’s Campbell hall
Cost: $10, $12 for both nights

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