Calling all Cork adrenaline junkies... here's a festival for you!

Echo film critic CARA O’DOHERTY previews two festivals coming to Cork this month - the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which features adventurous explorers, and the Italian Film Festival, which showcases great movies from that country
Calling all Cork adrenaline junkies... here's a festival for you!

A scene from Exit The North Pole, which follows the extreme expedition carried out by two polar explorers, Børge Ousland and Mike Horn.

WHETHER you are an armchair adventurer or a bona fide adrenaline- seeker, The Banff Mountain Film Festival will allow you to journey to remote locations and join some of the world’s greatest explorers and extreme athletes via the magic of the big screen.

The festival plays in the Everyman Theatre on May 18-19, with two programmes of high-octane films.

Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival began in the 1970s in Banff, Canada, becoming a mecca for adventurous spirits. Twelve years ago, Banff had its first world tour, sending a selection of its films to cinemas across the globe. The much-loved festival has continued to showcase films globally ever since.

Rosie Fuller is the festival’s tour coordinator and will be travelling to Cork to present the films. She says that Banff’s main festival is the world’s biggest gathering for anyone who loves the mountains and who loves mountain culture, and says that being able to bring a small piece of the festival to other countries is an adventure in itself.

“For anyone who isn’t lucky enough to go to Canada to attend Banff, we choose some of the best films and bring them on tour.

“We can’t wait to come back to Cork. We haven’t been since before the pandemic. Cork audiences are receptive to our films; it is such a fantastic, outdoorsy county.

“We love visiting, and from seeing how beautiful the county is, we can understand why audiences enjoy the festival so much.”

Fuller says that more than 300 films entered the main festival, so choosing which of them to bring on tour is no easy task.

“There are so many amazing films; narrowing them down is hard. We’ve picked a range of sports; we have everything from skiing to climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and polar expeditions.

“We have a variety of film lengths; some are just four or five minutes, and then we choose longer feature-length films, which are half an hour or 40 minutes.”

Fuller says it is important to showcase films from different geographical locations and ensure that characters feature as well as action.

Films in the programme are from countries as close as Scotland to the far reaches of the North Pole and Everest.

“We are always looking for films that tell a nice story. We have amazing adrenaline and hair-raising action, but we really like films with strong characters, people who are pushing themselves to the limits. It is great to see them in action, but it is also interesting to get inside their heads and see what makes them tick.”

Scene from Action Directe, about French climber Melissa Le Nevé. RIGHT: A still from Exit The North Pole. Both are part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival
Scene from Action Directe, about French climber Melissa Le Nevé. RIGHT: A still from Exit The North Pole. Both are part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival

Of the films on offer, Fuller says Action Directe is one of her favourites. It follows French climber Melissa Le Nevé who went to extreme lengths to become the first woman to climb one of the most challenging climbing spots in the world, Action Directe in Germany.

“Melissa really wanted to climb this specific route. It’s got this huge jump at the beginning, impossible for most people to jump, and it was thought that because the jump was so physically demanding, no woman would be able to do it. The film is her story of trying to defy the odds, of proving what a woman could do. She is remarkable.”

Another highlight is Exit The North Pole, which follows the extreme expedition carried out by two polar explorers, Børge Ousland and Mike Horn.

"They attempt to ski all the way across the frozen Arctic Ocean, going past the North Pole. What makes their expedition different to others is that they do it in winter. It is always cold up there, but the cold is extreme when you do it in winter. Temperatures are going down to minus 40.

“For a lot of the time, they’re travelling through 24-hour darkness. They can’t see if any polar bears are coming to get them, but they’re around. It’s been described as the boldest polar expedition of modern times and seeing what goes into that is really amazing.”

The films are not just about adventurous humans; four-legged friends also get their moment to shine in A Dog’s Tale, which follows the dogs who race, run, and skip alongside their humans, including one cuddly pup who closely resembles a small teddy bear.

“A Dog’s Tale is about dogs who go mountain biking; they run the mountain bike trails and absolutely love every second of it. They aren’t sleek, sporty dogs; most of them are just your average dog who are in their element and always raring for more adventures.”

Fuller says you do not need to be an active adventurer to enjoy the films but notes that people find inspiration in the stories.

“Very few of our audience members are going to ski across the North Pole in winter, but if you have an active interest in hiking, or even if you’ve just got an interest in seeing people do amazing things and going to amazing places, you will really enjoy the stories.

“I watch these films every year, but I still watch them, and I’m inspired to push myself a little more to find a taller mountain or go out on a bike ride somewhere a bit different.

“There’s something for everyone to take away. Every year, people tell us how inspired they are by the films to get out there and do something adventurous.”

Banff Mountain Film Festival runs May 18-19 in the Everyman Theatre.

ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL

ITALY’S filmmaking tradition began in the 1890s, and the country is credited with being the home of art cinema. Its contribution to cinema is invaluable, and Italy continues to produce a wealth of films every year

The first-ever Italian Film Festival is coming to Ireland this May, and Cork has been chosen as the location to highlight some fine Italian films.

The festival programme has eight films that show the best of Italian filmmaking and includes Europe by Haider Rashid, an Iraqi-Italian filmmaker whose film about a migrant’s attempt to find a new life represents present-day Italy.

Futura by Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, and Alice Rohrwacher looks at young Italians and their hopes and fears about the future.

In Perfect Strangers, by multi-award-winning Paolo Genovese, seven friends decide to play a dangerous game at a dinner party. In a twist on truth or dare, each agrees to unlock their phones and let the others read their texts and check their call log, revealing secrets, lies, and possibly ending friendships.

Ennio by Giuseppe Tornatore is a must for film fans. The documentary follows the career of the prolific film composer Ennio Morricone.

Italian Institute of Culture Director Marco Gioacchini is looking forward to bringing the festival to Cork. “I am delighted and honoured to launch the first N.I.C.E. Italian Film Festival Ireland in Cork.

“Many prominent academics and cultural figures, who represent Italy in Ireland, have contributed greatly, over the years, to the success of this project by organising festivals, film clubs and public events with the participation of directors and actors.

“The existing interest and exceptional contributions have been crucial for the realisation of this first N.I.C.E. Italian Film Festival Ireland.”

The N.I.C.E. Italian Film Festival Ireland takes place in the Gate Cinema from May 19-22.

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