Banff Film Festival comes to Whitman

Emma Cooper

Climbers, boarders, bikers, and river-surfers gathered into Cordiner Hall on Jan. 19 for this year’s Banff Film Festival event.

The Banff Film Festival plays annually in Banff, Alberta, where hundreds of outdoor films are displayed. An intense selection process is required in order for the festival to come to Whitman; the Cordiner event screened eight films ranging from three minutes to over an hour in length.

The Banff event lasted three hours, in which the audience traveled through back-road country in the United States, reached the snow-capped peaks in Svalbard, and fell in love with a dog named Denali. The 10 films covered a variety of outdoor experiences: climbing, skiing, mountain biking, surfing, and horseback riding. Each film brought to the big screen the stunning beauty of the great outdoors while also encouraging the audience to go out and engage with nature.

Lish Riley, Rental Shop Manager for the Outdoor Program, coordinated the Banff Film Festival’s visit to Whitman. The process included crafting a film lineup with Banff’s “Road Warrior” [the traveling Banff representative] that would capture and entertain the Walla Walla audience.

“[The Road Warrior] is really knowledgeable about the films because they’ve seen them all.  By the time they get to Whitman, the films have been showing in other locales for almost 2 months.  So, when it gets down to it, myself and the Road Warrior have the biggest part in film selection.  It’s usually a back and forth process where they will propose a potential line up, and I will give my feedback on what I think about each one and will ask about other films that I particularly liked and how we can create a balanced mix of films,” said Riley.

The festival reached a broad audience, from climbers and bikers to skiers and hikers. For first-year Julia Mason, the Festival’s climbing film, Women’s Speed Ascent, was a particular favorite.

“I liked them all so much. I liked the climbing one because I vaguely knew one of the people in it. And I climb,” said Mason.

For others, like first-year Teagan King, festivals as a whole are wonderful events for the Whitman and Walla Walla community to experience together.

“It’s just really awesome that they brought the whole film festival to Whitman and that it was free to students. I think that people really enjoyed it,” said King.

Whitman has also hosted the Tri-Cities Film Festival, the Backcountry Film Festival, and the Native American History Film Festival.

While the Banff Festival displayed the beauty that can be found in any terrain on this planet, it left the audience mindful of not only their relationship to nature, but also their relationship to one another.

Riley appreciated how the festival brought together not only Whitman students, faculty, and staff, but also Walla Walla community members of all ages and students from the other local college and university as well.

“For me, two of the most important things that we’ve been given in life is the earth in all it’s beautiful splendor, and people, and the relationships that we have the capacity to have with each other, and I think Banff bring together both of those things in a way that reminds us of our passion and love for interacting with nature, often in an activity that heightens our experience, and of the special gift of friendship in all its forms,” said Riley.