Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Adrenaline-filled film fest finds reliable hub in Lenox


LENOX — You hear the pounding of footsteps before the face comes into focus.

"It certainly is a spiritual feeling when you're out there alone in the woods," 97-year-old George Etzweiler narrates in "For the Love of Mary." "It's really soothing."

The State College, Pa., resident challenges age and gravity as he runs up Mount Washington in New Hampshire during the 6-minute film.

"If I collapse, you make sure I'm dead before you call 911," Etzweiler says he tells his running group.

Etzweiler regularly participates in the annual 7.6-mile, 4,700-foot-elevation-gain Mount Washington Road Race, a climb he completes in honor of his late wife. The documentary's inspirational tenor is typical of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour. The curated representation of films shown at the annual fall festival in Banff, Canada, celebrates mountain sports and culture, including skiing and climbing. Next weekend, the tour will stop at Lenox Memorial High School's Duffin Theater for screenings of 17 documentaries on Friday, Feb. 15, and Saturday, Feb. 16; their net proceeds will benefit the Lenox Education Enrichment Fund. The events' 1,000 total tickets sold out within two weeks of their early December release, but that's not surprising to Arcadian Shop Owner Larry Lane.

"It's just really caught on," Lane said.

Banff Centre and Arcadian Shop first brought the tour to the Berkshires in 1994. The initial events were held at Lenox Town Hall and drew well, but a subsequent move to Berkshire Museum allowed for more than 200 spectators at a time.

"I think it really caught fire at Berkshire Museum," Lane said.

Eventually, Arcadian Shop partnered with Lenox Memorial High School to stage the screenings at the Duffin Theater. In recent years, enthusiasts begin inquiring about tickets in August and September, according to Lane, who estimates that ticket holders usually hail from a 100-mile radius. Those entering his Lenox outdoor store's cafe recently could see highlights of this year's films. Adventure is a common theme.

"Obviously, there are the adrenaline rushes," Lane said.

"The Passage" opens with a man traversing a ledge beside an ocean, surfboard tucked beneath one of his arms. The low, steady roar of waves far draws him downward.

"As a kid, I loved listening to my parents tell stories about their adventures," filmmaker Nate Dappen narrates. "One story in particular captured my imagination."

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It isn't a surfing one, the viewer quickly learns.

"In 1974, my parents and my Uncle Andy built their own canoes and against all advice launched their boats into the Pacific to become some of the first people in modern history to paddle the Inside Passage," Dappen says, alluding to the coastal route running up North America's Pacific Northwest. "That story became a foundation of my identity."

Dappen goes on to reexamine this trip with his family, an exploration that leads them to unexpected territory in the 25-minute film.

"Far Out: Kai Jones" is characteristic of the shorter jolts of entertainment sprinkled throughout the two nights. The five-minute film offers a glimpse at an 11-year-old who soars over rocky ledges in the Teton mountains.

"The mountains are definitely a place of freedom," Jones says early on.

"Surviving the Outback (Tour Edit)" (44 minutes) and "This Mountain Life: Coast Range Traverse Segment" (39 minutes) are the two longest pieces that will be screened over the two days. The former tracks one man's quest to survive for a month in a remote area of Australia with only antique supplies, recreating the situation two German aviators faced in 1932. The latter follows a mother-daughter team as they start a six-month ski traverse through the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.

"People are absolutely inspired not only maybe to do their own film but to get outside," Lane said of the typical reactions to the festival's documentaries.

Before the films run, guests can grab light dinner fare provided by the Lenox Crew Team. Theater manager Al Saldarini also plays a significant role in putting on the event.

"He is just fabulous," Lane said.

Lane noted that the site's events receive five stars from Banff Centre, which screens the films in 550 locations across 40 countries.

"They like coming to Lenox," Lane said.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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