Once upon a time, there was a film festival in a far off distant land called Alberta, and when it was finished with its selection of short features, it would gather the best of the best and send them out into the world on tour, for other people to see. At first only a few people knew about this tour of festival films, and a place like, say, Campbell Hall at UCSB could comfortably hold those fans of mountaineering, skiing, and environmental travel videos.
But word of mouth spread, and now we find ourselves this coming week with two different film programs on two different nights — Wednesday and Thursday — filling the Arlington. It’s time for the Best of the 37th Annual Banff Mountain Film Festival.
“We’ve gone from 400 to 3,000 people,” says Arts & Lectures’ Roman Baratiak, who travels north to the festival in the ski town of Banff every year to attend the entire week of films. The screenings at the Arlington started three years ago. Seventy-five percent of the audience were not UCSB students; attendance is a tradition for a lot of non-students.
Previous incarnations of this tour just happened to paint a worrisome portrait of global warming and environmental degradation, with the filmmakers either trying to capture these areas before they are ruined, or finding nature changed irrevocably compared to previous treks. But this year the tone is lighter, not intentionally, but just based on the entries.
Wednesday night’s program features three long shorts interspersed with shorter, fun films. The three are “Crossing the Ice,” which follows James Castrission and Justin Jones as they attempt to make their way across Antarctica to the South Pole and back with just food and shelter on their backs. Surprise, they meet another man trying to do the exact same thing.
“It’s a great film, and they’re characters,” Mr. Baratiak says. “So you like them. But there’re always people out there trying to be ‘first’ and by coincidence they meet this Norwegian guy on the ice.”
“1st Afghan Ski Challenge” by Hans-Urs Bachmann shows first-time skiers doing their best in the first-ever downhill race in their country. And “Reel Rock 7: Honnold 3.0” features the return of Alex Honnold, the crazy solo climber Santa Barbara audiences watched scale Half Dome three years ago. Now he tackles the Yosemite Triple.
Thursday night features two other long shorts. “One Step Beyond,” by Sebastien Montaz-Rosset, drops us into the life of renowned snowboarder and base jumper Geraldine Fasnacht. The documentary reveals Ms. Fasnacht reconsidering her life and whether the thrills are worth the danger.
“Last of the Great Unknown,” by Dan Ransom travels to that most familiar tourist destination, the Grand Canyon, and discovers a hidden series of canyons far away from the donkey rides and photo spots.
“It’s pretty amazing the places they go to,” says Mr. Baratiak, “So many things I didn’t know about.”
Seana Strain coordinates this festival tour, and she says that the actual festival week in Banff is an endurance test. “You’re getting the snapshot view of what it would be like to be here,” she says. “Even though you don’t see the gamut, we try to give a good taster of what it would be like. Of course, you really should still come here!”
Until then, there’s the Arlington.
Best of the 37th Annual Banff Mountain Film Festival
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed. and Thurs.
Where: Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St.
Cost: $15 general, $12 UCSB students and youth
Information: 893-3535 or www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu