Surfboards on high-lines. Skateboarding tricks on skis. Baby ibex prancing on the edges of sheer cliffs. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is bringing to Moab the mix of madcap antics, elite athleticism and stunning natural scenery that audiences have come to expect from the annual event.
“It’s such a wide variety and that’s part of the fun of it,” said Dave Erley, the mayor of Castle Valley. Erley has been helping to facilitate the film festival in Moab for the past 15 years. “It’s a wide variety in the activities, and it’s a wide variety in the environment and it’s a wide variety in the geographic locations of everything. You kind of get this global travel tour.”
This visual tour will take viewers to Ecuador in the film “Dugout,” one of the longer selections screening in Moab, in which two Brits travel to the Amazon and carve a traditional canoe from a tree. In “Into Twin Galaxies,” a team of National Geographic Adventurers haul their white water kayaks across the ice cap in Greenland to the northernmost river ever paddled. “My Irnik” brings the audience to arctic Canada and depicts the traditional culture of dog sledding and the relationship between a father and son.
“Although we like adrenaline, we like the culture too, here (in Moab),” Erley said. “Longer films where the characters can be developed better, and the story line — we try to show one of those each night. They’re more of an adventure with a cultural aspect to it.”
Some of the films focus on female athletes. In “La Casita Wip,” Ecuadorian coaches teach girls how to ride BMX bikes. “Johanna” documents free-diver Johanna Norblad’s plunges under frozen-over water. “Stumped” follows the struggles of a female climber learning to adapt after losing one of her arms below the elbow.
“Anytime there’s a good film that has females, we try to show it because obviously, it’s a little too male-dominated world out there,” Erley said.
In past years, the film festival has been held in Moab in early March. The move to October means there will be more tourists in town to fill the auditorium. Also new this year, Banff has canceled its Radical Reels tour and those films are now rolled into the Mountain Film Festival selections.
The event benefits the Utah Avalanche Center’s Moab field office which provides daily updates on mountain snow conditions in the winter, and the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Price that shelters and rehabilitates wounded wildlife.
The Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has nearly completed a new animal hospital and has more projects on the horizon. It intends to build a dorm to accommodate volunteer interns, and a new, 100-foot “flight,” which is an enclosure where recovering raptors can safely practice their flying skills.
“Because we do so many eagles, we need a 100-foot flight,” Debbie Pappas said, the director of Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. This will be the second flight of that size in Utah.
Though the center is located in Price, Pappas said that 40- to 50-percent of the center’s injured wildlife comes from Grand and San Juan counties. She also brings wildlife to Grand County to be re-introduced into the wild. Sometimes raptor releases are announced and the public is invited to attend — Dead Horse Point State Park is a reliable release site, Pappas said.
“Dead Horse is a great place to put eagles because of the drop and the lift from the winds,” Pappas said.
Banff Mountain Film Festival attendees may wish to learn more about raptors after seeing the film “Sky Migrations,” which documents biologists surveying raptors in the wild.
Tickets may be purchased with cash at Back of Beyond Books, Canyon Voyages Adventure Company, Pagan Mountaineering or Poison Spider Bicycles or online at utahavalanchecenter.org. There are 675 tickets available and Erley hopes to come close to selling out this year.
“The difference between watching this thing at home and watching it in the auditorium with 600 or 700 other people is a big difference — it’s rockin,’” Erley said. “It’s more like a rock show. When it really goes, it’s bumpin’ in there.”
Banf Mountain Film Festival makes its fifteenth annual stop
Where: Grand County High School Auditorium, 608 S 400 East
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, and Sunday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. (Doors open at 6:15 p.m.)
Cost: $15 in advance; $20 at the door
“An adventure with a cultural aspect to it.”