From the looks of this year’s film list, you can expect skiing, ice climbing, mountain biking, tree frogs, an avalanche or two and some risk-taking, all for the sake of promoting the wonderful complexity of the outdoors.
This year, UC Santa Cruz is one of the locations hosting the 38th annual Banff Mountain Film Festival. Being held on Feb. 21, 22 and 23 at the Rio Theater on Soquel Avenue, the festival airs a different set of movies each night. This year there are 24 films, ranging from three to 56 minutes long.
“We’re really looking forward to this year,” said senior recreation supervisor Danielle Lewis. “All three nights are filled with an exciting rundown of different films and opportunities.”
Kathleen Ferraro, the recently retired organizer of the festival, is responsible for choosing the films. Despite Ferraro retiring as the recreation center’s class coordinator and guide editor, she remains involved with the festival as co-organizer. First in 1998, and every year since 2002, Ferraro has flown to Banff, Canada, the film festival’s birthplace. Ferraro attends the festival in its hometown, meets the filmmakers, producers and athletes and chooses which of the films to bring back to Santa Cruz.
“My first time to the festival in Banff was in 1998 and I was amazed at how much it gave me a solid foundation to understanding the festival itself,” Ferraro said. “Prior to that, I didn’t know why we had the cultural films. I used to think it was more about the high adrenaline films. I learned the films are all about mountain culture and that means many things: cultural, environmental and of course, mountain sports.”
In true Banff tradition, this year’s films are wildly eclectic. The chosen films range from blind rock climber Erik Weihenmayer’s introduction to white water rafting, to Jeff Corliss’ attempt to fly through a rock archway in a wingsuit, to Lindsey Van’s struggle to empower women’s Olympic skiing. Ferraro chose 24 of the 60 films screened at Banff that would be most cherished by a Santa Cruz audience.
“It is always hard to decide what films to bring because the majority of films are great and worth watching,” Ferraro said. “Each program we set for this year’s festival is strong with a little bit of everything. We try to mix cultural, environmental and mountain sports so if you can only see one night, you will get a well rounded lineup.”
Mark McCarroll, the head of the recreation department and the man who brought the festival to UCSC, said he is often surprised by which films strike him.
“I’m a white water guy, I love rafting and kayaking, so I usually think these are going to be the films for me,” McCarroll said. “But maybe a film about a boy and his dog and their wild experience turns out the be the most exciting thing I’ve seen. Every film has its own sweetness that excites my soul in one way or another.”
Apparently McCarroll is not the only one moved by past films, because the festival consistently sells out in advance despite the Rio Theater’s ability to seat 680 guests per night. This year is looking no different, as the theater sold half of its online tickets almost a month before the opening night.
“People walk up to me all the time in town and tell me their favorite films,” Ferraro said. “These films often stay with you and have an impact, so much more so than many of the Hollywood films.”
Santa Cruz students reap great benefits from the festival because the proceeds of its success produce 20 scholarships for Wilderness Orientation, the outdoor program that organizes multi-day backpacking trips for incoming students.
“That alone is an exciting reason to bring Banff here,” McCarroll said. “Wilderness Orientation is what Banff is, all those things: the culture, the excitement, the learning and the messages that are sent.”
Tickets can be purchased at the UCSC recreation center, Pacific Edge Climbing Gym and The Bicycle Trip for $15, or they can be purchased online through santacruztickets.com. The festival takes place Feb. 21-23 at the Rio Theater on Soquel Avenue at 7 p.m.