Mountain film fest isn't just for you sporty types

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Even if the closest you’ve been to a half-pipe is on your Playstation, the trailer for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival 2014 will blow you away.

Assembled by Tavi Parusel, it’s a breathtaking reminder that adventure sports and adrenalized, high-test filmmaking often go hand in hand. If the festival is primed for people who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, the sheer dynamism of the filmmaking is there for anyone whose interest is purely cinematic.

“I think it really does appeal to a wider audience that doesn’t necessarily pursue these sports themselves,” says VIMFF programmer Tom Wright. “Maybe they’re not skiers, maybe they’re not climbers, but you can’t help but be inspired, you can’t help but be in awe at what some of these people are doing and the beautiful landscapes that they’re doing it in.”

For its 17th year, Wright has assembled a program of 79 films, most of them shorts of varying length, separated into categories including trail running, big-rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking. “Our audience wants to see a variety of different work in the night and that’s where the short films come in really handy,” notes Wright. “You can get six films in and people feel like they really got some bang for their buck.”

Of the full-length features scored by VIMFF, a Girl Power Matinee at the Rio Theatre on Sunday (February 9) pairs the recently released Maidentrip with Made of Steel, a Norwegian doc that looks at extreme-sport star Karina Hollekim’s recovery from a paralyzing parachute accident, and her determination to ski the French-Swiss Haute Route.  

The Crossing—the woolly tale of two Australians dragging their kayaks across an arctic island—gets its North American premier at the same venue the following evening (February 10), as part of an Arctic Adventures Show that also brings in explorer John Dunn for a spoken presentation.

At the Cinematheque, on Tuesday (February 11), the feature-length Tea or Electricity reminds us that VIMFF boasts interests beyond sports and adventuring. A feat of extreme filmmaking as much as anything else, Tea or Electricity was made by Belgium’s Jérôme Le Maire over three years as he documented the arrival of electricity in a remote village in the Moroccan High Atlas mountain range.

Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver hosts both the opening (February 7) and closing galas of the seven-day festival. It was the sole venue when VIMFF started as a modest two-day affair in 1998. Now the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is bringing in over 8,000 people, prompting Wright to wonder if it’s finally superseded better-known festivals elsewhere in the world.

“Banff and Kendal have been around a long time, between 35 to 40 years now,” he says, “but I think audience numbers-wise, I’d say we’re maybe bigger than both of them.” It’d make sense, given the location and culture, which happens to loop back into the festival in terms of product

“There’s a really strong hub here of very creative photographers and filmmakers and athletes who are all collaborating together to make these pieces, and every year we have a lot of really strong stuff coming from Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton,” notes Wright. “There’s a lot of good stuff being made.”

On that note, the man behind VIMFF’s stellar trailer has his own movie to show you. Tavi Parusel’s “The Pilgrimage” spearheads a Spiritual Journeys night at the Cinematheque, on Monday (February 10). The 25-minute film follows Parusel and his brother as they make the 900-kilometre trek across Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Bringing things still closer to home, Parusel’s stepdad, Martyn Williams, will be there (along with Finding Jim author Sue Oakey-Baker) to talk about his expeditions to Everest and both Poles. 

“It’s a cool, cool night of entertainment,” says Wright. Indeed, even if you just want to hip yourself to one of the region’s emerging cinema talents.

Complete schedule and more information here

The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival kicks off on Thursday (February 7) at Centennial Theatre, in North Vancouver

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