The lure of the mountains is strong, especially as spring crawls out of hibernation. Adventurers pine for long summer days full of kayaking adventures and rock-climbing treks — but in the Blue Ridge, these thrills recede during our short but unpredictable winter. Every March, though, the outdoors comes to the silver screen with the arrival of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.
Brevard joins the international ranks with Buenos Aires (population 3-plus million), Melbourne (population 4-plus million), and Beijing (population 11-plus million) as a celebrated host city for the international film festival, an extension of the film and book festival held each fall in the Canadian mountain town of Banff. (Interestingly, Banff and Brevard have almost identical populations — 7,584 and 7,654, respectively.)
This year’s films take audiences to the highest peaks of the Canadian Rockies, into the depths of Welsh mountain lakes, and inside a photographer’s struggle to capture the solar eclipse near the North Pole. A French film, titled simply Sounds of Paragliding, lets listeners listen in as aerobatic paragliding pilot Théo de Blic “dances to the sounds of the sky.”
The festival has attracted outdoor sports enthusiasts to town for the past 20 years, and tickets tend to sell out quickly. Brevard’s proximity to Pisgah National Forest, its robust rock-climbing and mountain-biking culture, and the area’s many waterfalls make it an ideal place to host an outdoors-themed film festival, says Clyde Carter, associate professor of Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education at Brevard College.
Carter helps organize the Brevard arm of the festival and works with the college’s Outing Club to pick the films for the three-day event. Organizers from each host city choose from the official selections to design a program that reflects the interests of their community. With Brevard College students behind the wheel, it’s a varied-terrain ride.
“Typically our students like the adrenaline rush, but they also like the more culturally related films. Sometimes it’s just about mountain culture and somebody trekking through a certain region, so those films are pretty popular, too,” explains Carter.
Brevard hosts three nights of screenings, but tickets typically sell out weeks in advance — proof of the city’s ability to attract outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
“I really love to see the audience and the variety of folks that are there,” says Carter. He says this year’s festival will draw people from throughout the Southeast.
“It’s a pretty eclectic group of outdoor adventurers,” he says. “People who have a lifetime of experience who love coming here to see these films and also those that are just really getting into the outdoors.”
The 2016 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will be screened in Brevard College’s Porter Center for Performing Arts March 11, 12, and 13. For ticket updates, visit www.brevard.edu/banff.