Watching a film at The Met usually means settling in for something delightful, European and subtitled, or something American, independent and thought-provoking. This weekend, the Best of Banff Film Festival, sponsored by Mountain Gear, is all of those things and more. Now entering its second decade, the Best of Banff this year promises everything from a film celebrating the stunts of female skiers in the B.C. Rockies to a documentary about a primitive and remote area of New Guinea.
"The festival isn't just films about climbing," says Paul Fish, owner of Mountain Gear. "There are films on biking, skiing and mountain culture, as well."
Mountain culture is hard to sum up, but infuses nearly every offering in the film festival.
"It's about people and how they are in rugged settings," explains Fish. "People who live or survive in these extreme environments."
Mountain culture at its most compelling is the subject of Mysterious Mamberamo, awarded Grand Prize Nov. 5 at this year's festival in Banff. Mysterious Mamberamo, featured Saturday, chronicles the dangerous and arduous journey of two travelers into Irian Jaya on the island of New Guinea. American essayist Gretel Ehrlich served as one of the festival judges and writes that the film "depicts a long and desperate journey over a tropical mountain amongst people never seen before by outsiders. A bold, raw, quiet window into a closed world."
Mountains -- no matter how remote, can also serve as physical and metaphorical bridges -- as A Higher Calling proves. Winner of this year's People's Choice Award at Banff, A Higher Calling shows on Friday and tells the story of six friends who set out to paraglide cross-country together in western Nepal. Through the daily process of finding places to launch and land, the group comes to know Nepal on an immediate and intimate level.
P.O.W: Posse of Women breaks through a subtle -- but widely prevailing -- stereotype of winter sports enthusiasts usually being men. Director Curtis Robinson hones in on four female powder junkies from their first jolt of caffeine in the morning through a day of deep powder and mid-air acrobatics in this seven-minute film.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and drew more than 12,000 enthusiasts. Among them was Andrew Ashmore, circulation manager for Mountain Gear.
"I was amazed at how many people were there," says Ashmore. "I saw a lot of famous mountaineers there, people I'd only heard of."
The crowd, however, was not limited to climbers, as is the case with the audience turnout for the Best of Banff Film Festival locally.
"There were a lot of filmmakers, too," says Ashmore. "It's a very diverse crowd. And also people who just drove up from Calgary, who were just interested in the event. It wasn't limited to climbers at all; a lot of the people were outdoor film enthusiasts, or people who were into nature films or mountain culture as well."
& & & lt;i & The Best of Banff Film Festival takes place at The Met on Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7 pm. Tickets: $10; $18 for both nights (different films are featured each night). Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &