A scene from Benjamin Sanford and Matchstick Productions’ Frozen in Time (Credit: Courtesy of Frozen in Time, Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour)

Exploring the World of Adventure With the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour 

By Nancy Saunders

Held in the middle of our long, cold winter, the annual Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour is a favourite event of outdoor adventure enthusiasts (including those of the armchair variety). This year is no exception, and in light of the kind of year it’s been, we’re likely itching that much more for a chance to explore the world beyond our home’s four walls. What better way to be inspired than to take in a film festival that showcases the best on offer by the world’s filmmakers in this genre?

For over 10 years, the local screening of the world tour has been hosted by the Thunder Bay chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, selling out the 1,480 seats year after year. Films are typically hand-picked from the tour menu by Frank Pianka, the local ACC section rep and events coordinator. “We always put in a lot of effort,” says Pianka. “It was always a lot of hand-wringing, trying to decide if we’d picked the right films.”

This year, the films were selected by the world tour organizers themselves, and six programs were created to provide variety. “They bring you all over—there’s biking, there’s skiing, there’s culture, there’s environment, there’s comedy,” says Karin Stubenvoll, the world tour manager.  As such, Pianka’s role this year is focused on “advertising and promoting the address of our affiliate link to patrons and enthusiasts in our region—our usual audience,” he says. The unique affiliate link allows the Thunder Bay ACC to receive a portion of the revenue from ticket sales purchased by their patrons. The link can be found on the club’s website at acctbay.ca. Rather than taking place on one sold-out evening, this year’s tour extends until October 24, 2021. Pianka explains this was a big relief. “We’re not tied to a deadline. We’re simply tied to getting the word out.”

There are currently four pre-packaged programs online, and two more will be released later in the year. Hosted on Vimeo, there are several viewing options: viewers can select one of four programs running approximately two hours each, a bundle of two programs, or the epic bundle of all released programs. “Each program is a real mix of things. We made sure each program is evenly attractive, with longer films and shorter films,” says Stubenvoll. “We really look at diversity—we want women in all the programs, we want minorities in all the programs, we want to show different countries in all the programs. You get a really good idea if you buy all four.” The majority of the films are introduced by filmmakers, there is some information shared about things that have taken place since the films were shot, and there is a short intermission during which there is a contest and door prizes.

Thunder Bay resident Nicki Schiewe is a long-time volunteer film and book reviewer for the festival. “I’ve had the joy of screening hundreds of films submitted to the festival each year,” she says. “The films this year were able to capture the usual high adrenaline, with some films even taking the pandemic into account. Watching the films this year from the safety of our home provided a solace for the soul and an escape from our current realities during lockdown. The films renewed our inspiration to explore our world, and comfort that adventures will once again return.”
 Visit acctbay.ca for the link to their campaign where you can purchase film packages, with portions of the revenue going to the Thunder Bay chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada. A full list of films can be found at banffcentre.ca/2020-21-world-tour-films.