Banff, Alberta, Canada, is not a sister city of Santa Barbara, but it may as well be. Both are beautiful resort towns nestled against some of nature’s finest landscapes, and both are the namesakes of international film festivals.
Returning again for the world tour’s 26th year at the Arlington Theatre on Tuesday, February 28, and Wednesday, March 1, the globe-trotting Canadian roundup of the year’s best outdoor shorts has become a locally loved tradition bookending February’s filmic festivities. Everything mountainous, from the peaks to the base camps and everyone and everything adventurous in between, make up the movies of this recurring festival. Fifteen films are included in this year’s two-night program, which has become a UCSB Arts & Lectures institution since it began screening in town. Here’s a look at what’s on the itinerary.
Tuesday, February 28: The films on the first night take us across the globe on boats, bikes, and boots. Four Mums in a Boat is the remarkable tale of four incredibly brave middle-aged working British mothers who decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean, to the great surprise of their families. In Iran: A Skier’s Journey, two skiers go against the precautions of friends and family and find a rich skiing culture in the deeply religious country. Mountain bikes are the main feature in Max Your Days, about a wicked fun summer solstice on Canada’s West Coast; in Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out, where the Scottish star bikes around his home countryside; and in Shift, wherein an indigenous Yukon community transforms itself into a world-class mountain biking destination. And there are stories of solitude and struggle, such as Ace and the Desert Dog, where adventure photographer Ace Kvale spends 60 days in the Utah canyon country for his 60th birthday, or Doing It Scared, where climber Paul Pritchard returns to scale the site of a climb that partially paralyzed him.
Wednesday, March 1: Many of the second night’s shorts are largely about pure adventure. Ruin and Rose is classic Banff Mountain Film Festival footage, with skiers gracefully plummeting down snowy slopes so steep you almost fear for your own life just watching it. The Canadian short DreamRide is a lushly shot ride through a dense, fern-filled rainforest on mountain bike, a five-minute short of wheeled adrenaline past ancient trees. Others, such as Dog Power and The Super Salmon, fix their lens on animals. The former, an American film, is a fascinating look at dog-powered sports and the owners, athletes, and trainers who bond with these special canines as they mush along. In Super Salmon, the fish of focus swims against plans to build a hydroelectric dam in Alaska’s Susitna River.
Others are a different kind of adventure altogether. Sure to be one of the more inspiring highlights of the festival, Metronomic looks at a team of artists and high-level balancing athletes who create a sky-borne symphony on sheer cliffs. Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World puts the viewer onboard the Infinity, a 120-foot, hand-built sailing ketch with a nomadic crew who journey 12,800 kilometers from New Zealand to Patagonia. Poumaka is a personal story, following American bouldering champion Angie Payne; she leaves behind her usual stomping grounds to discover the French Polynesian jungle with veteran explorer Mike Libecki (who spoke in town last year as part of Arts & Lectures’ Nat Geo series).
For more information, visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.