Snow Business 

The world’s best mountain films come to Missoula

Paragliding through the Himalayas, climbing the flanks of Yosemite’s monolithic El Capitan, skiing champagne powder in British Columbia—they’re just some of the jaw-dropping visual delights to be found in this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Outdoor aficionados and armchair mountaineers alike will converge to see the world’s best mountain films come to Missoula on Saturday. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Banff Film Festival will highlight the best of this year’s 213 entries as well as retro favorites of the past 25 years.

The film festival is produced by the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture in Alberta. The Centre promotes understanding and appreciation of the world’s mountain places by creating opportunities for people to share—and find inspiration in—mountain experiences, ideas and visions.

Held annually in the first weekend of November, the event is a coming together of the international mountain community with its respective films, guest speakers, seminars, trade fair, book festival, and photography competition. After the three-day gathering in Banff, the festival goes on the road. Before concluding its world tour in May 2001, the Banff Film Festival will highlight audiences in North America, Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Chile, and Iceland.

The festival was first celebrated in 1976 when just more than 400 spectators came together to view 10 films. Today, the event in Banff draws nearly 8,000 festival-goers to view 30-40 films. During last year’s North American Tour, over 80,000 people attended 209 screenings in 150 cities. The Trailhead and University of Montana Outdoor Program have been bringing the event to Missoula for the past 14 years.

Themes of the films range from expensive, high-end productions to independent, low-budget documentaries. From this year’s strong menu of films (24 countries submitted a total of 214 films), an international jury selected 30-40 finalists before awarding prizes in eight categories.

Earning the festival’s 2000 Grand Prize was the Slovakian film Mysterious Mamberano, the chronicle of an epic, often dangerous, journey through the Australasian country of Irian Jaya. Best Climbing Film honors went to the French film, L’histoire d’une legende (Annapuna: History of a Conquest), which looks at the legendary Himalayan peak from the lens of an historian, on the 50th anniversary of its first ascent. Sahara’s Secret Garden, a French film exploring the hidden canyons of a forgotten mountain in Northern Chad, was recognized as Best Film on Mountain Culture. Meanwhile, the U.S. film Shishipangma: A Celebration of Life takes viewers to Tibet where tragedy strikes the expedition of Bozeman mountaineer Alex Lowe and cameraman David Bridges as they tried to make the first ski descent of an 8,000-meter peak. Mountain Rivals, a film from the Netherlands, takes the prize as Best Mountain Life film. Set in South Africa, it documents the struggle of survival between black eagles and their winged rivals, the caracals. The Best Short Mountain Film (15 minutes or less) was awarded to Switzerland’s Y2sKi, featuring beautiful skiing footage in a creative narrative style. Swiss filmmakers also captured the Best Feature-Length Mountain Fiction Film award with the two movies Premier de cordee and La grande crevasse. These films chronicle a story of bravery, tragedy, and love in Chamonix, France, in the late 1930s. Special Jury Awards went to two climbing films: The Dizzy Heights’ Knights from Switzerland, set in the Dolomites of Italy, where two climbers vie for first ascents of rock climbs on their local peaks, and Yosemite: Ascending Rhythm, a U.S. film that takes an elegant look at the world of Yosemite’s rock climbing. And finally, audiences voted to give the Peoples’ Choice Award to A Higher Calling, the story of six paragliders who desire to fly cross-country in western Nepal.

Which of these films will find their way onto University Theater’s screen? Dudley Improta, director of the University Outdoor Program, says Missoula’s 2000 Banff Film Festival will feature new films and, since many of them are short, as many as possible in the allotted three hours of time. Grand prize-winning films such as the Peoples’ Choice Award and other “Best of 2000” films will highlight the evening. And Improta is quick to point out that this is not a festival solely for climbers or any singular group—it should appeal to all members of Missoula’s mountain culture, as well as anyone who’s passionate about the outdoors.
Show begins at 6 p.m. and lasts three hours. Price for the film festival is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets are available at the Trailhead or Tic-etEZ outlets. For more information, contact the University Outdoor Program (243-5172), the Trailhead (543-6966), or visit the Banff Centre’s web site at

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