I am not a crier. I am not an emotional person. Few things can draw an emotional response out of me. On this short list, movies rank low. Rarely do I tear up or gasp during a movie. I do have one exception, and that is the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
Considering the number of people who have already asked me, you’re probably wondering what the Banff Mountain Film Festival is.
The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival has been held every year since 1976, in Banff, Alberta Canada at the Banff Centre. The festival lasts for nine days from late October into early November, where films, books and photos are judged and prizes are awarded in different categories. After the winners are selected at the end of the festival, some of the noteworthy films are sent around the world on a tour.
This tour comes to Lawrence, and for the last three years I have been fortunate enough to see it. I say “fortunate” because I feel that my parents have given me an opportunity to see and be aware of lives outside of the Johnson County bubble.
Watching people jump off cliffs, climb mountains, brave rapids and row across the ocean is the closest I will get to actually doing these things. The little window that the films provide is a glimpse of a different life and a different mindset. The films pull you in, making you feel as if you are really there and experiencing the same thrills.
Watching someone climb an 8,000 foot tall sheer face of rock without ropes, a harness or anything to keep them from falling to their death is terrifying. You know that they probably aren’t going to fall, but you know how one misplaced hand or foot means the end for them. When a kayaker goes over the waterfall and you don’t see them pop right back up, you fear for that person’s life. You have no idea who they are but you care about their safety in that one moment.
It’s not just the films about death as well as gravity defying sports that get to me, but the ones about a culture, family or environment. Though the emotions are different, its the same intensity. I was up in arms about a mine being built in a remote corner of Alaska, that would potentially destroy thousands of habitats and ruin the local fishing economy. After seeing a film about it and being so upset about it that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever endanger a community, habit and species that much.
These stories can elicit an emotional response from me, someone who is usually emotionally detached from most movies. I have let a squeal or two over the past few years at this event. They make you feel more than the multi-million dollar sappy romance movie, because they feel more real. You get to look into a life, culture or location that you would never see otherwise. This is what makes this so amazing, and so unique.
After years of going, the Banff Mountain Film Festival has become a staple in my family life. It’s become something that my family loves so much that we clear our schedules. Drive to Lawrence countless times in a week. Spend more time together for the Banff than we would in an entire month.
I care about this so much, because it’s like nothing else. You can’t just pick one word to describe it. It’s so much than just a bunch hippies climbing around on rocks. It’s what people are really like and how truly awe inspiring human beings are that they can push themselves to, literally, incredible heights when they know that a slip will mean failure or even death.
These are the things that keep me and my family coming back each year. These stories are important and we can learn so much from are the ones 90 percent of people are not seeing. You are absolutely enthralled the whole night, from start to finish.
I have had a hard time putting all of my thoughts, emotions and ideas about this festival into words. You can’t just put a label on the films, let alone the festival itself. It has had such an affect on not only me but my whole family.