Banff Mountain Film Festival winners announced

Grand Prize Winner

Karsten Heuer and his son, Zev, consult a canoe route map in the film Finding Farley, winner of the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice awards. (Image credit and copyright: Karsten Heuer, courtesy of the Banff Centre)

Epic travel features into most of the projects undertaken by Leanne Allison and Karsten Heuer. They paired up to hike 3400 kilometres along the spine of North America to bring attention to the Yellowstone to Yukon conservation region, then followed the arctic caribou 1500 kiliometres to their breeding grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Together, they have been producing films, books, photographs, and essays all along each journey. For their most recent project, they packed up their two-year-old son Zev and travelled across Canada on a journey to discover the wilderness between their home in Canmore, Alberta, and the home of literary icon Farley Mowat in Nova Scotia. Allison’s film of the trip, Finding Farley, has won the 2009 Banff Mountain Film Festival Grand Prize.

With crisp photography that captures the glory of the Canadian landscape, Finding Farley follows the family as they paddle, portage, and sail across the country, through the settings of many of Mowat’s classic books. “It’s a sincere adventure that winds through the very heart and fabric of Canada,” says Banff Mountain Film Festival jury member Don Bowie. “The film cleverly unfolds with an undeniable magic.”


Best Feature Length Mountain Film

A scene from the film Beyond the Summits, winner of the Best Feature-Length Mountain Film award, directed and produced by Rémy Tezier’. (Courtesy of the Banff Centre)

With soaring cinematography and an essential story, director / Producer Rémy Tezier’s film Beyond the Summits wins the award for Best Feature Length Mountain Film. Following French mountaineer Catherine Destivelle on a series of high alpine climbs in area around Chamonix, the film gets inside the close relationships that develop between climbers. “This is one of the most evocative alpine climbing films we’ve ever seen,” says jury member Lindsay Griffin, citing its spectacular photography and technical prowess. “Through narrative, character, and image, the film exemplifies the special connections made in mountaineering.”

Best Film on Climbing

U.K.-based director Dave Brown and producer Paul Diffley, who have picked up multiple Banff Mountain Film Festival awards over the years, return for the Alpine Club of Canada Award for Best Film on Climbing for Committed 2: The Walk of Life. It follows James Pearson as he climbs 48 metres on an E12 route in North Devon, in a story told with intensity and suspense. “This film is about a very British climbing ethic,” says jury member Daniel du Lac. “The photography and music unpretentiously maintain tension without being manipulative, making it an outstanding film about the climbing community.”


Best Film on Mountain Culture

Winning the award for Best Film on Mountain Culture, director/producer Michael Dillon’s film A Little Bit Mongolian follows a 12-year-old Australian boy as he trains to compete in traditional long-distance horse races on the Mongolian steppe. “This film shows that the essence of Mongolian life is horses,” says jury member Michael Pause. “And it shows two cultures coming together.”


Best Film on Mountain Environment

The film Natural World: Snow Leopard — Beyond the Myth, is as much about tracking and filming the elusive snow leopard as it is about revealing a side of wild Pakistan that isn’t often seen. Winner of the award for Best Film on Mountain Environment, the film by producer/director Jeff Wilson and producer Vanessa Berlowitz follows Nisar Malik, who spent two years documenting the daily life of the snow leopard, producing never-seen-before footage in the mountains of Pakistan. “There’s a message of political hope in this film,” says jury member Kristi Denton.


Best Film on Mountain Sports

Director David David Michôd and director / producer Jennifer Peedom win the award for Best Film on Mountain Sports for Solo, which follows distance kayaker Andrew McAuley as he attempts to kayak solo from Australia across the notoriously rough Tasman Sea. After 30 days and 1600 kilometres alone on the ocean, McAuley transmits a distress signal from just off the coast of New Zealand. “This intense film was made in a truly authentic spirit,” says du Lac. “You think about it for days afterward.”


Best Short Mountain Film

Winner of the award for Best Short Mountain Film is Mont-Blanc Speed Flying, by director/producer Didier Lafond, which Bowie describes as a “wonderfully filmed adrenaline ballet.” Filmed in Cineflex, it follows six speed riders as they fly from the upper slopes of Mont Blanc to Chamonix in one continuous ten-minute shot.”


Special Jury Awards

The jury also awarded Special Jury Awards to three films, including Take a Seat, about Dominic Gill’s mission to cycle 32,000 kilometres from the north coast of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America on a tandem bike, inviting people to join him along the way. It’s directed by Gill and Luke Jackson, and produced by Lucy Wilcox. “We were drawn in by the charisma of the main character in this film,” Griffin says. “It proves that you can have a superb adventure without having to be particularly macho.”

Special Jury Award also went to the humourous short film Project Megawhoosh, directed by Minh Duong and produced by Nikolas Hannack, and the cold, still wilderness of Yellowstone: Winter, produced by Andrew Murray, which featured what Denton describes as “incredible images captured in near-impossible circumstances.”


Audio Post Production scholarship

The Audio Post Production scholarship, chosen by Banff Centre Audio program alumnus and Academy Award-winning sound editor Mark Willsher, was given to director Fred Ripert for Autour de Babel. The award goes annually to a film finalist, to assist with producing surround DVD soundtracks, in the form of $10,000 in post production studio time and expertise at The Banff Centre.


Banff Mountain Film Festival jury

The 2009 Banff Mountain Film Festival jury included Canadian mountaineer Don Bowie, French competitive climber and ice climber Daniel du Lac, mountaineer and Mountain Info editor Lindsay Griffin, American documentary filmmaker Kristi Denton Cohen, and Michael Pause, artistic director of the Tegernsee Mountain Film Festival.

Founded in 1976, the Banff Mountain Film Festival has become the biggest and best-known mountain film festival in the world. Accompanied by the Banff Mountain Book Festival, it is held annually at The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Following the festival, films are selected for the popular Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which takes Banff films to over 500 screenings around the globe.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is a presentation of Mountain Culture and Environment at The Banff Centre.

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