Recap: Banff Mountain Film Festival – Ottawa

Banff Mountain Film Festival

You get goosebumps when you hear its theme music. You know that voice – the one that comes deep from Richard Armstrong’s toes and says “Welcome to the Banff Mountain Film Festival.”

It’s one of my favorite times of year. I sit in a dark movie theater buzzing with the energy of other festival-goers. For three hours I allow myself to be transported on an adventure or maybe a cultural journey to Russia’s Far East, the Grand Canyon, Scotland, or French Polynesia.

This year I went with a friend to the opening night in Ottawa (January 9th) after teaching in Pembroke.

I was…underwhelmed.

It hurts to write that.

Is it me? Have I been to the festival too many times now? Have I seen too much on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube? Every outdoors person with a GoPro can be a videographer or even a cinematographer these days. Just like everyone with a cell phone is a world class photographer.

I’m not a cynical person. If you’ve been reading here long enough, you already know that.

I don’t know if I felt underwhelmed because the crowd’s energy felt flat. Or if it was too cold out or too cold in the ByTowne Cinema. I don’t know if maybe the tour edits were perhaps a bit off for me this year.

Characters didn’t feel fully formed or weren’t particularly likeable. Storylines didn’t arc. Films felt like music videos.

All that said and I will still attend the festival when it arrives in Toronto. I’m hoping for a different line-up, for a bunch I haven’t seen yet. Look for me at the Bloor Street Cinema on Saturday night.

In the meantime, here’s how Ottawa shook out for me:

The Ones I Liked

Ace and the Desert Dog

Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out


Four Mums in a Boat

The Ones I Could Have Taken or Left

The Accord

Packing it Out: Cleaning America’s Wild Trails

The Perfect Flight

The Ones That Really Didn’t Do Anything For Me


For the Love

Iran: A Skier’s Journey

Max Your Days


Do you have one or two films from the festival (this year or previous years) that stand out in your mind?  Join the conversation.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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