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Banff Mountain Film Fest returns for fourth year

Banff Mountain Film Festival

When: Fri. April 15 @ 7pm

Where: Lucas Theatre

Cost: $10

WHAT’S the first thing you think of when you hear the words "mountain film festival?"

Don't worry, it's not just a collection of documentaries about mountain ranges. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is much more exciting than that.

Katherine Smith, manager at Half Moon Outfitter’s Charleston location, assures, "It's way more than just films about mountains! It's more about mountain culture."

This year's festival is Friday, April 15, at the Lucas and marks the fourth year that the festival has come to Savannah.

The mission of the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, is to inspire creativity. One way they do this is with the Mountain Film Festival, which embarks on a world tour after the films screen in Canada.

Over 40 countries are included on the sprawling tour, and there are five stops in our area: Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, South Carolina; Athens, Georgia; and Savannah.

Banff whittles down their whopping 300 films to a smaller set that gets sent on tour. From that selection, Smith, with a small group from Half Moon, chooses about nine to twelve films to show at each location.

The nine films screening in Savannah this time are 55 Hours in Mexico, The Last Dragons, Women's Speed Ascent, Unbranded, Denali, Curiosity, unreal, Eclipse, and Nature RX.

The films focus on a variety of themes, like skiing, ultrarunning, lizards living in the Southeast, and the best-friendship between a man and his dog.

"We try to customize it best for our community and our audience," says Smith, "but our number one influencer is audience feedback from previous screenings—what crowds have loved in their other stops."

"We just had Telluride Mountainfilm, so we know that the clientele and people viewing the films will be similar, so they try to shake it up," adds Christin Schoettle, manager of Half Moon's Savannah location.

The longest film slated to be shown is 45 minutes; the shortest is just a few minutes long.

The variety presented in the films ensures that there's something for every single audience member, not just those who ordinarily enjoy nature movies.

"Sometimes people are apprehensive about going, thinking that they might all be rock climbing videos," explains Smith. "We try to have some human interest stories, but of course there's some adrenaline stuff."

Every year, two nonprofits are chosen to benefit from the festival. This year, proceeds go to the Georgia Conservancy and the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.

"We try to pick like-minded organizations that are doing something to protect the national habitat or that encourage people to pursue outdoor activities," says Smith. "We have a lot of respect for both those groups."

With her promotion to manager in January, Schoettle is tasked with collecting raffle prizes and sponsorships for the festival.

"I feel really responsible for the Bicycle Campaign and the Conservancy, and I want to raise as much money as I can for these two nonprofits," she explains. "I'm running around like a crazy person!"

Once the festival hits, though, Schoettle intends to settle down and enjoy the films.

"I love stuff like this coming to Savannah because it's such a lovely cultural event," says Schoettle. "The Savannah Music Festival just happened and we move right into Banff; it's a lovely tie-in to the international music. It's the culture of Half Moon—being adventurous, getting people outdoors.

"I would take ten more events like this."