Banff Mountain Film Competition 2018 Winners

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Grand Prize

Image from the film The Weight of Water

Image from the film The Weight of Water

Sponsored by MEC | $4,000

The Weight of Water

  • (USA, 2018, 80 min)
  • Director and Producer: Michael Brown
  • Production Company: Serac Adventure Films



  • Erik Weihenmayer has climbed the tallest peaks on each continent and his latest undertaking is to kayak the Grand Canyon. His blindness doesn’t hold him back – and together with his friend Lonnie, who also happens to be blind, the two face Lava Falls, the toughest rapid in the canyon.

“In the end, we selected the film that touched us most deeply – the one that caused us all to shed some tears. The human achievement that was the focal point of this work gripped us and the emotional journey of the main protagonist as the narrative unfolded was palpable, while also being exquisitely subtle. We were moved. We were immensely inspired. And we were drawn into the story so intensely, we felt a part of the exhilaration of an unimaginably hard-won accomplishment.”

— Rebecca Martin, jury member

Award for Creative Excellence

Image from the film Cielo

Image from the film Cielo

Sponsored by Rumble Supershake | $2,000

Cielo

  • (Canada, 2017, 78 min)
  • Director: Alison McAlpine
  • Producers: Alison McAlpine, Paola Castillo, Sean Farnel and Carmen Garcia
  • Production Company: Second Sight Pictures, Errante Producciones
  •  

Drifting between spirituality and science, Cielo is a cinematic reverie on the crazy beauty of the night sky, as experienced in the Atacama Desert, Chile, one of the best places on our planet to explore and contemplate its splendour.

“Using the night sky above Chile’s Atacama Desert as backdrop, and metaphor, this sublimely visual tone poem combines Romanticism, folk tales, and hard science making all seem equally valid. A beautifully filmed existential meditation on what exists above us, its larger theme, patiently played out scene by heavenly scene, is what exists within us.”

— Jim Herrington, jury member

Best Film: Exploration and Adventure

Image from the film Plan C -14 II

Image from the film Plan C -14 II

Sponsored by ROI

Recreational Outfitters | $2,000

Plan C-14 II

Martin Pueyrredon is an industrious man of 83 years old and he is running out of time. Against all odds and doctor's recommendations, he is determined to have one last adventure before the end.

“What we realize through this film is that our most profound journeys can happen at any time in life – and perhaps the later we take them, the more rich and meaningful they become. And, no matter the challenges we face in life, there is always joy to be found – even in the most fleeting moments.”

— Rebecca Martin, jury member

Best Film: Mountain Culture

Image from the film The Silver Branch

Image from the film The Silver Branch

Sponsored by Helly Hansen | $2,000

The Silver Branch


Ireland, 2018, 74 mins
Director: Katrina Costello 
Producer: Ken O'Sullivan 
Production Company: Sea Fever Productions 

The Silver Branch is a philosophical visual poem on the life of a peasant farmer/poet Patrick McCormack, descendant of generations of farmers who lives off the wild mountains in the West of Ireland. Patrick and his rural community are drawn into a divisive battle with the Government, leading him to the European supreme courts to decide on the fate of this iconic wilderness. 

"This film is both a lyrical portrayal of a place and an individual's philosophical take on life. It moved us by its nuanced and layered narratives, visual poetry, and its consistent and creative vision." 

- Ramyata Limbu, jury member

Best Film: Climbing

Image from the film Free Solo

Image from the film Free Solo

Sponsored by Alpine Club of Canada | $2,000

Free Solo

  • (USA, 2018, 119 min)
  • Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
  • Producer: Evan Hayes
  • Production Company: Lonely Films
  •  

From award-winning Documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi (MERU) and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin comes National Geographic Documentary Film’s Free Solo, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 900-metre El Capitan in Yosemite National Park... without a rope.

“The film we kept returning to was not marked by any single strength, but rather by its stunning completeness. Visually staggering, emotionally overwhelming, epic in scale and ambition, the effect was so strong that I found myself lingering in silence till the end of the credits, unable to move.”

— Bruce Kirkby, jury member

Best Film: Mountain Sports

Image from the film The Weight of Water

Image from the film The Weight of Water

Sponsored by Smartwool | $2,000

The Weight of Water

  • (USA, 2018, 80 min)
  • Director and Producer: Michael Brown
  • Production Company: Serac Adventure Films
  •  

Erik Weihenmayer has climbed the tallest peaks on each continent and his latest undertaking is to kayak the Grand Canyon. His blindness doesn’t hold him back – and together with his friend Lonnie, who also happens to be blind, the two face Lava Falls, the toughest rapid in the canyon.

“Perhaps more important than the story itself is the growing understanding, empathy, and solidarity bonding the members of the expedition. This film lacks the propaganda of success which can be illustrated by the words spoken by the main character Erik: “I hate it when they say that nothing is impossible”. Erik’s face tells more than a thousand words – something the jury will never forget.”

— Paweł Wysoczański, jury member

Best Film: Snow Sports

Image from the film This Mountain Life

Image from the film This Mountain Life

Sponsored by Boréale Explorers | $2,000

This Mountain Life

  • (Canada, 2018, 77 min)
  • Director: Grant Baldwin
  • Producer: Jenny Rustemeyer
  • Production Company: Peg Leg Films
  •  

A mother-daughter team set out on a six-month ski traverse in the Coast Mountains. A group of nuns inhabit a mountain retreat to be closer to God. A couple lives off the grid for nearly 50 years. All feel the pull so strongly that their lives must revolve around mountains. Shot in cinematic detail, This Mountain Life is a riveting portrait of human passion set high in the snowy peaks of Canada.

“While many films this year delivered such staggering footage, we found ourselves drawn to the more simple and yet powerful stories in this film, which documents a handful of souls who have chosen to live amid the mountains, and cultivate a relationship to the land; including a snow artist, a former Nordic champion turned Dominican nun, and perhaps most impressively, a mother-daughter team tackling a six-month ski traverse of the Coast Mountains.”

— Bruce Kirkby , jury member

Best Film: Mountain Environment & Natural History

Image from the film Bird of Prey

Image from the film Bird of Prey

Sponsored by ChopShop | $2,000

Bird of Prey

  • (USA, 2017, 95 min)
  • Director: Eric Liner
  • Producers: Eric Liner and John Bowman
  • Production Company: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Wildlife cinematographer Neil Rettig embarks on what could be the most challenging assignment of his career: to find and film the rarest eagle on the planet – the Great Philippine Eagle.

“Beautifully shot, and in incredibly challenging circumstances, this film focused on one man’s return to document an iconic species on the brink of extinction. Woven finely into the context of a nation’s political history, the threats of ongoing deforestation, and scientific research of the world’s largest and most rare eagle, the film is a brilliant example of how a perfectly crafted story not only informs, but, ultimately has the power to make us to care.”

— Rebecca Martin, jury member

Best Short Mountain Film

Image from the film Facing Sunrise

Image from the film Facing Sunrise

Sponsored by Sherpa Adventure Gear | $2,000

Facing Sunrise

  • (Canada, 2017, 8 min)
  • Director: Julia Kwan
  • Producers: Yves J. Ma, Lainey Mullins, and Jeff Thomas
  • Production Company: MEC


While dealing with one of the darkest times of her life, Azzah overhears a conversation around the question, “what do you want to do before you die?”

“The film is far more authentic than the number of films boasting superheroes with enormous muscles. Azzah has a genuine interest in experiencing the world and through doing that she delivers an important message – everyone has the right to connect with nature.”

— Paweł Wysoczański, jury member

Best Feature-length Mountain Film

Image from the film The Dawn Wall

Image from the film The Dawn Wall

Sponsored by The North Face Banff, owned and operated by Highline Outdoors | $2,000 

The Dawn Wall


Austria/ USA, 2017, 100 min
Directors: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer 
Producers: Josh Lowell, Philipp Manderla, Peter Mortimer 
Production Company: Red Bull Media House in association with Sender Films 

 

In January 2015, American rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson captivated the world with their effort to climb The Dawn Wall, a seemingly impossible 900 - metre rock face in Yosemite National Park, California. The pair lived on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks, igniting a frenzy of global media attention. But for Tommy Caldwell, The Dawn Wall was much more than just a climb. It was the culmination of a lifetime defined by overcoming obstacles. 

"Make no mistake, this film provides a gargantuan serving of the doing, but the true success, and story, of this multi-layered epic is its main protagonist and the trilogy of challenges that come his way - equal parts body, mind and heart -and the deeply human way he deals with them." 

- Jim Harrington, jury member 

People's Choice Award

Image from the film The Bikes of Wrath

Image from the film The Bikes of Wrath

Sponsored by Osprey | $2,000

The Bikes of Wrath

  • (Australia, 2018, 101 min)
  • Directors and Producers: Cameron Ford and Charlie Turnbull
  • Production Company: Dos Flamingos
  •  

The Bikes of Wrath tells the story of five friends as they attempt to cycle from Oklahoma to California in honour of the mighty westward migration undertaken by the Joad family of Steinbeck's famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

SPECIAL JURY MENTION

Image from the film Ascending Afghanistan

Image from the film Ascending Afghanistan

Ascending Afghanistan

(USA, 2016, 50 min)
Director: Erik Osterholm
Producers: Erik Osterholm and Alyse Walsh
Production Company: Vice Media

Follow the first female Afghan mountaineering team as they navigate their first expedition and fight for recognition as athletes amongst their country, culture, and families.

“A film that reminds us how trivial our aspirations and achievements are. A film that humbles us. The jury unanimously agreed that this powerful film could not go unrecognized… it is a reminder of how far we still have to go in the journey to make this a just and equal planet for all, and it casts a new light on the unexpected role mountain sports can play in those efforts.”

— Bruce Kirkby, jury member.

SPECIAL JURY MENTION

Image from the film Mama

Image from the film Mama

Mama

(Poland, 2017, 45 min)
Director and Producer: Wojtek Kozakiewicz
Production Company: Vacaspurpuras Outdoor Films

Kinga Ociepka-Grzegulska is one of the most important figures in Polish sport climbing and the mother of two kids. After 20 years of living her passion, she sets herself a new goal – to climb a route that no woman has ever done before.

“What does it mean to climb? To take on challenges? To discover or rather re-discover yourself? How do you balance life’s mundane realities with your passion? This film is an insightful and honest portrayal of a mother of two who sets herself a goal and who is determined to reach it.”

— Ramyata Limbu, jury member