Films for Armchair AdventurersJan 27, 2023 11:15AM ● By Colleen M. Story
Where can you see a nuisance polar bear, a man walking a highline between two hot air balloons, and a senior Colorado woman who’s made a boat you can fit in your backpack —all at the same event?
Viewers get the opportunity when the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival comes to Delta’s Egyptian Theater on February 23 and Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre on February 24-25.
“It’s not all skiing films,” said Barb Bowman, addressing a common myth about the festival. “You get to travel to remote places and be inspired not only by the scenery, but by what these films are talking about. Maybe you can’t slackline between two hot air balloons, but after watching, we can feel like getting out and moving again.”
All films are relatively short, the longest being 40 minutes. There’s one about the gorillas in Uganda and how a woman ranger protects them from poachers. Another is about a woman called “North Shore Betty” who started mountain biking when she was in her 50s and is still doing it today in her 70s.
This year’s lineup also includes a farmer who discovers the joy of climbing in the crystalline limestone sinkholes of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and Nouria Newman, the most gifted kayaker of her generation.
Home in Historic Venues
Operating the top adventure film festival in the world, Canada’s Banff Centre in Alberta has been an industry leader in the celebration of “mountain culture”—promoting appreciation of the world’s mountain places by creating opportunities for people to share and find inspiration. The film festival travels to over 400 global destinations.
Despite being surrounded by mountains, it took Bowman 18 months to convince the powers that be at Banff to add Grand Junction to their list of tour locations over seven years ago.
“They said they had it in Aspen and Telluride,” she said, as if that were enough.
She told them to look at a map of the area. “We’re not going to travel two-to-three hours over the mountains to watch a film festival,” she told them.
Organizers still weren’t convinced, so Bowman sent them news about the historic Avalon Theatre (which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year). They fell in love with the location and agreed to hold the first tour stop there in 2017. The event has been held at the Avalon every year since, except for when it was hosted virtually in 2020 because of COVID-19.
For the first time ever, the Banff Film Festival will be held for one night at the Egyptian Theater, 452 Main St. in Delta.
“It took Banff an hour as opposed to 18 months to say yes to Delta!” said Bowman.
That’s in part because of theater’s history. Inspired by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, the Delta Egyptian Theater opened in 1928 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Just months after Kelly Anderson, executive director of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, created the nonprofit that later purchased the theater with plans to renovate it, the Egyptian will be hosting the Banff Film Festival for one night with an exciting slate of films all its own.
Banff benefits local
Those who support the film festival this year can feel good knowing that their money is going to a worthy cause. Generous sponsorships cover the expenses to bring in the film festival, so the rest of the money (minus a small deposit for future films) goes to four local organizations.
“Each year we distribute between $35,000¬ to $40,000 to our beneficiaries,” said Bowman, a Rotarian who pulls together the event with help from the Grand Junction Rotary Club.
That money has helped pay, in part, for the new film in the Colorado Monument’s Visitor Center and for the renovation of the amphitheater.
Banff-generated funds have also helped to expand the CMU International Student Program, with some of the students working as ushers at the festival. Colorado Canyons Association and Western Colorado Conservation Corps are the two remaining beneficiaries.
To get your tickets to this year’s festival in Grand Junction, visit banffgj.com, avalontheatregj.com or stop by the Avalon Box Office, 645 Main St. To see Thursday night’s event in Delta, go to deltaegyptian.org.
All seating is reserved, so buy tickets in advance. Each of the benefiting organizations will be present, which means you can visit with representatives beforehand or during intermission. Both theaters will have concessions available.
“It’s mid-winter and we’ve been holed up so it’s nice to get out and go to something so inspiring and exhilarating!” said Bowman.
Banff Centre Mountain film Festival World Tour
February 23, 7-9 p.m.
Delta Egyptian Theater
542 Main St., delta
Tickets: $15 (Donations are welcome!)
February 24 & 25, 7 p.m.
645 Main St., Grand Junction
Tickets: $25 each night; $45 for both nights
Ready to be inspired?
"North Shore Betty" at Banff Berry Birrell picked up mountain biking at age 45 in the misty forests above North Vancouver after a career as mountaineer and professional windsurfer. Three decades later, she's proof that you're never too old to send.