Reviews from Banff Mountain Film Festival

Michael Bragg

Editor’s Note: The following films were showcased at the 17th annual Banff Mountain Film Festival and were reviewed by The Appalachian’s two senior A&E reporters.

Review: Kayak film ‘Huck’ a little lackluster amongst 17th annual Banff Festival’s star films

The best films at the Banff Mountain Film Festival feature incredible action shots of sports and mountain landscapes along with interesting, charismatic athletes.

Films like this year’s “The Gimp Monkeys” and “Reel Rock 7: Wide Boyz” were successful because of both their stellar cinematography and their energetic, eloquent subjects.

“Huck,” one of the shorter entries this year at only 5 minutes, contains stunning footage of waterfall kayaking from young Montana athlete Evan Garcia, but falls short as a captivating profile.

Director Andy Maser sets up some thrilling shots of Garcia’s descent over an 80-foot waterfall. The audience sees the same fall from Garcia’s point of view as well as from a distance, which allows us to feel what it’s like to descend from inside the kayak and what it’s like to witness a feat of such courage.

Although Maser’s direction is skillful and exciting, his interviews with Garcia are rather banal and clichéd.

The athlete begins the film by saying kayaking is his “life and soul,” but goes on to say that “it’s really hard to find true happiness in only kayaking.”

This is hardly illuminating, especially when Garcia is choosing a life of kayaking himself.

Still, it’s a little unfair to criticize Maser or his subject for not being revelatory. Not every athlete has to be an excellent speaker, and Garcia is clearly motivated and passionate.

That said, “Huck” was definitely a lull in this year’s festival, and a bit lacking when it comes to an insightful look into a thrill-seeker’s mind.

Rating: One out of five stars

Story: COLIN MOORE, Senior A&E Reporter


Review: ‘Crossing The Ice’ lives up to expectations

“Crossing The Ice” follows the real experiences of amateur Australian adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones as they train for and attempt the previously unaccomplished challenge of traveling round trip from the edge of Antarctica to the geographic South Pole completely unaided.

This task is further complicated when a rival – experienced Norwegian adventurer Aleksander Gamme – attempts the same trek with a day’s head start.

The film won the grand prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada last year and showed at Appalachian State University this weekend as a highlight of the traveling winners’ tour.

The documentary, all shot via handheld personal cameras, exposes the less glamorous side of extreme adventuring as the boyish pair quickly finds the trek more physically and emotionally demanding than they first expected. Regular shots of blisters, swollen faces, vomit and mental breakdowns humanize these larger-than-life characters as they consider giving up on the return journey.

These lows are highlighted always in the face of overwhelming spirit and almost naive positive thinking throughout the entire 89-day expedition, as they treat the overwhelming competition like a friendly fairytale rivalry.

Cinematographically, the production quality comes through surprisingly well given the extreme conditions under which most of the shooting occurred. Visually, it fits well as the winner of a National Geographic-sponsored festival.

The film was a definite crowd-pleaser at Banff this weekend, inspiring vocal reactions and applause throughout its screening. “Crossing The Ice” delivers the anticipated action, adventure and emotional whirlwind one expects from this festival, without coming across as insincere or pandering.

Rating: Five out of five stars

Story: LOVEY COOPER, Senior A&E Reporter