According to Somerville Theatre’s Hermitlake organizer, Paul Fitzpatrick Nager, the film The Search for Freedom sets the tone for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour 2016.

This action-packed film, showing some of the brightest stars of our adrenaline-chasing age, overlaid with a beautiful narrative, results in a somewhat jarring juxtaposition that still manages to express powerful wisdoms about the peace and freedom we all seek as we escape into ourselves and our sport. It’s like watching someone cliff-jumping while hearing Buddhist teachings — but if you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, you know that this is just what the followers of this path seek. This balance between panic and enlightenment where one might just find release.

And the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour always selects films that merge adrenaline highs with awe and a gesture toward enlightenment — sometimes they do it beautifully, sometimes stunningly, other times less successfully. Either way, the films bring us into the worlds of these athletes and nature seekers.



The 2015-2016 world tour continues the outdoor film industry’s efforts to include more diverse films. In terms of race, there is still a long way to go, but there were several women-made or women-focused films this year. Operation Moffat, Bluehue, Women’s Speed Ascent, Project Mina, Pretty Faces and Climbing Ice all feature women in the outdoors, owning it in the way we know we can. Here are some of our highlights from this years’ selections.

Angel Collinson, the first female ever be nominated for, and then also win the Powder Awards “Best line of the year” award took home the 2015 Award for her line in Teton Gravity Research’s film Paradise Waits. A gnarly, cliffy sheer drop of a line in Alaska which she stuck firmly, and for which she was selected by a panel of ski industry judges over male pro ski competitor’s lines for the win. Angel is a champion in big mountain skiing, a beast to watch in the best sense, and that she is a woman taking it all on is just icing! (If you have doubts about her prowess, watch her 2015 1,000 foot-tomahawking fall and her chilled out reaction.)

Climbing Ice: The Iceland Trifecta, while a bit over the top, and as much about photographer Tim Kemple as the skillful climbing of world champion ice climber, Klemen Premrl and top European female ice climber, Rahel Schelb, is good sugary outdoor eye candy. The humor, artistry through challenging, even impossible maneuvers, and deep passion for the sport they exhibit as they explore the playground Iceland presents in the form of ice cave, moulins and icebergs makes the film worthwhile, even if we the viewers have to clamber over Tim’s ego to enjoy it.

Women’s Speed Ascent is a kick ass, take no prisoners outdoors film in the best sense of the word. Mayan Smith-Gobat and Libby Sauter literally hurl themselves against the women`s speed record for the ascent of the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and take us with them. “I mean, certainly … you’d be ignorant to say we are not taking risks…,” is the opening, and the two are relentless, with only occasional amusingly familiar self critic reminding us that these two fierce, unbounded athletes are female. That they are us — and yet so much to aspire to as they demolish the wall! At the closing of the film, the theatre erupted into applause and whoops; I look forwards to more films like this. I only wish it were longer.

3 strings productions

3 strings productions

The feature length film, Unbranded, while with nary a female in sight, except Donquita the spunky donkey, paints a beautiful portrait of four young men trying to uncover themselves and their place in the world by reclaiming the modern American west with eighteen tamed mustangs. With their ragtag herd, they ride from Mexico to Canada (a longstanding dream of this author, I will admit.) It is not an easy ride, or one without loss, but it is worthwhile.

Depending on where you live along the Banff Tour, they will show a selection of the films or the full World Tour over the course of two to three nights.

Check out the website to see listings and buy tickets in advance — it always sells out. For dates and locations, go here.

For the list of films on tour, here.

And check out Banff Mountain Film Festival Magazine 2016 here.


Guest Contributor

WIT-Edit-241x300Julianne Gauron is an industrial designer living in Somerville, MA, working in Boston, NYC and across the US.  She has lived as a designer in Europe and Asia, working on sporting goods, military and health care product research and development.  She is an avid skier, yogi, runner, surfer and photographer.