Banff Virtual Film Festival: A Most Excellent Diversion and Fuel for Inspiration

Jason AlbertOctober 21, 2020
Jim Morrison and Hilaree NelsonSierra Nevada Mountains, CA. (Photo: Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity/Christian Pondella)


Within my pay-grade back in November 1993 was the cost of a weekend pass to the renowned Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival. Living in Northwest, Montana at the time, the drive north and across the border and up to Banff was a streamlined affair. Beyond my means, however, a warm place to stay near Banff. Even back then, the somewhat tony Canadian town had a posh flare. So a friend and I bivied in the woods, eagerly awaiting the warmth inside the Banff Centre For Arts and Creativity each morning. This hive of mountain culture, decades before streaming adventure content was a finger-swipe away, remains a highlight. 

Since then, the Banff Mountain Film Festival tour has been my annual pinprick for inspiration. The film tour arrives in town at just the right moment as available daylight wanes, the motivation withering. These films stoke my where-there-be-dragons imagination, making it easier to snag a coffee, the headlamp, and hustle for the alpenglow.  

For reasons we all know, the Banff Mountain Film Festival is virtual this year. Here’s the silver lining: The 2020 festivities can come to you if you’re looking for a socially distant Covid-outlet. You can secure access to roughly 75 films through the Centre’s virtual festival website. The films are available to stream from October 31st – Nov. 8. A few films are subject to geo-restrictions. 

A full festival pass costs $115.00 (150.00 CAD). These passes are all-inclusive but are not available for purchase after Nov. 3. For those unable to commit to a full pass, the Banff Centre offers “single screening” tickets running between $10 and $20 per event/showing.  

Portions of the film fest catalog have a limited period for streaming. Go to the film fest’s Virtual Festival Schedule and you’ll get dialed. For example, say you’re interested in “Will Power”, a film profiling ice climber Will Gadd. That film is available for streaming between Nov. 2 – Nov. 8 only. 

The price of admission also includes access to a curated series of mixed film bundles. The bundled films are organized by theme: Global Village, Send It!, Pause and Reflect, and High Altitude Dreams are a few of the offerings. 

A critical piece of attending the Banff Mountain Film Festival are the myriad speakers and panels. Those conversations are sadly unavailable when you head out to your local Banff World Tour show. Within the confines of a virtual festival, however, the organizers are including on-line speakers/discussions. They run the gamut from a timely panel titled “Indigenous Dialogue – What’s in a Name” to a question and answer session conducted by journalist James Edward Mills with Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison. Nelson and Morrison skied the Lhotse Couloir in the Nepal Himalaya. Think no-fall jump-turns above 8000 meters. Not much more to say about this first descent in the throne room of the mountain gods. 

Additionally, for those looking for a Banff film community, they’re hosting two “Tales & Ales” virtual discussions. Both “Tales and Ales” relate to the book side of the festival. 

If all this sounds a bit much to digest in print, the Banff Centre is hosting a “How To – Virtual Festival” webinar on October 27, at 11:30 am MDT.

While reading into the mission statement for the Banff Centre For Arts and Creativity, I came across this timely quote: 

“Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life.” –Morehei Ueshiba (Founder, Aikido)

If you find yourself looking for some virtual restoration, sitting back and immersing yourself in mountain films just might be good medicine. Which brings us to the films. Each to their own — but cherry-picking from the alphabetized list of the 2020 Banff Mountain Film Competition Finalist is splitting hairs. 


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Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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