By Cameron Rasmusson
If you can say one thing for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, it’s that it never loses touch of humanity in the midst of grandeur.
Whether audiences find themselves climbing the cliffs of South Africa or exploring the heart of the Himalayas, there’s a deeply human spirit built into each featured film. Take, for instance, “Tashi and the Monk,” which showcases the efforts of one Buddhist monk to care for a group of abandoned children.. “Delta Dawn,” meanwhile, examines man’s relationship to nature through a journey up the Colorado River Delta, where human impact on the environment is increasingly evident. In each of the 28 films selected this year, the breathtaking photography and adventurous spirit are grounded by personal passion.
The tone is doubly appropriate considering the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour’s Sandpoint event is itself a passion project. Now in its 19th year, the festival originally added Sandpoint to its circuit thanks largely to local businessman Michael Boge. In the mid-1990s, Boge caught wind of the festival and recognized its local appeal.
“At the time, I just thought ‘This would do really well here,’” Boge said.
It turned out others had the same idea. Banff Film Festival organizers informed Boge that two others already inquired about bringing the festival into town. Boge responded by gathering support from all around town, including Karen Bowers of the Panida Theater and the Sandpoint City Hall itself. The festival started out small at a single day to see if it would catch on, Boge said.
Nearly two decades later, that question has been answered definitively. The Banff Film Festival World Tour consistently sells out each of its three days, which kick off tonight, continue tomorrow and wrap up Saturday night. Doors open at 6 p.m. and films begin at 7 p.m.
It helps that each film in the local festival is handpicked by Boge for regional appeal. Just as the film festival is wrapping up in Banff, Alberta, in November, Boge and other “tour hosts” from around the world visit the city to gauge the year’s offerings. Festival organizers pare down the more-than-300 festival submissions to the cream of the crop, from which the tour hosts select their final line-up.
“It’s always fun to meet up [with other tour hosts] and exchange ideas on what makes a good festival,” Boge said.
This year, “Mending the Line” is one of Boge’s favorite selections. The film covers 90-year-old Frank Moore, who fought in the Normandy landings in 1944, as he attempts to heal old wounds by fly-fishing in the beaches he helped free.
For Boge, films like “Mending the Line” and “Tashi and the Monk”—another of his favorites—are perfect choices. They introduce the audience to new people, ideas and places while still speaking to the common elements of humanity that unite every culture.
Humanity doesn’t just apply to the festival films—it’s also built into the structure of the event itself. From the beginning, Boge knew that he wanted the festival to benefit people both globally and locally. In past years, for example, the festival proceeds benefited the Panida’s restoration efforts, Boge said. This year, proceeds go to the Satipo Kids Project, which helps educate about 40 elementary school-age kids from Peru each year. The festival will also support the North Idaho Mountain Sports Education Fund, meaning 73 local low income kids will be able ski at Schweitzer. The NIMSEF crew will also be raffling off some major pieces of sports equipment throughout the festival.
Bringing the festival to the town Boge loves is always a special experience for him. By way of gratitude, each of the attendees will receive a packet of the “Kick Ass” blend from Canadian coffee company Kicking Horse. It’s a little thank you to the town for making the Sandpoint stop on the world tour a massive success.
“Sandpoint just has this incredible energy that’s going on [during the festival],” Boge said. “ There just aren’t audience reactions anywhere else like there are in Sandpoint. It’s amazing.”
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