Image from The Asgard Project, winner of the award for Best Film on Climbing, 2010 Banff Mountain Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Banff Centre.
Calvin professor of environmental studies Jamie Skillen first experienced the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in 2002 in Ithaca, New York. “Think of it as National Geographic meets X-Games,” said Skillen, of the event, which he has attended every year since his first experience.
And every year, he has vowed to bring the tour to Calvin.
The tour is a showcase of films with mountain themes and wide-ranging subjects: There are films about mountain climbing, cave exploration, white-water rafting and all manners of trekking. The films also explore the culture, politics and economics of mountain life.
On Wednesday, April 6, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will premiere at 7 p.m. at the Covenant Fine Arts Center at Calvin College. “Prior to this year … you had to drive to Chicago or Ann Arbor to see it,” Skillen said.
The tour is culled from the films shown at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival held each fall in Banff, Canada. “The Banff Centre … takes the best films and sends them on world tour to about 360 locations,” Skillen said. “Each host gets to preview 25 to 30 films and choose the films that best fit their audience.”
Skillen has helped to choose the slate for Calvin, favoring films that have an outdoor recreation or environmental angle: The Longest Way is a five-minute time-lapse of a one-year walk from Beijing to Urumqi. Into Darkness travels underground with a group of cavers as they push through seemingly impassable spaces. Stones into Schools shows one man’s effort to build schools in war-ravaged Afghanistan. The Swiss Machine shows speed alpinist Ueli Steck racing up 2,500-meter faces.
Skillen said that he has a couple of favorites among the chosen films. One is He Dances for His Cormorants, the story of Zong Man, the best fisherman on the Lijiang River, whose 12 cormorants obey his voice and gestures. Skillen said the film serves as a good illustration of the range of the tour:
“I consider it a celebration of God's creation, both human and nonhuman. I think that it is a great fit for Calvin College for just that reason. While it tackles some challenging issues, it is fundamentally a celebration of what we see as God's creation, and there couldn't be anything more Reformed than celebrating God's glory.”
The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will appeal to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, adventure, and diverse cultures, Skillen said, adding: “Everyone should come to this.”
Tickets for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour cost $10 each, $5 for students, and $5 if you buy 20 or more.