By Cynthia Armour
City on a Hill Press Reporter

Whether it’s crawling over mountain summits, tight-roping a chain on a bike, or base jumping into a cave half a mile deep, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, expect the unexpected.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is produced by the Banff Centre, a Canadian organization promoting creativity in arts and culture.

The film festival here in Santa Cruz is part of the World Tour, and only a sneak peak for the bigger event in the city of Banff, Alberta.

For the last 18 years, UC Santa Cruz’s recreation department has been hosting the film festival at the Rio Theatre as a fundraiser for the UCSC Recreation Scholarship program.

Kathy Ferraro, the senior recreation supervisor at OPERS, said that the film festival was the department’s biggest fundraiser of the year. With an estimated attendance of 700, both nights were sold out, raising between $8,000 and $10,000.

The proceeds from the Banff Film Festival, Ferraro said, provide student scholarships for the UCSC Wilderness Orientation Program as well as other recreation programs, such as “Spring Break trips, Warrior Yoga … backpacking trips, hand drumming, etc.,” she said.

Charla Sharp-Tomlinson, the event’s host, has been working for Banff for a while, but was touring as what she calls a “road warrior” — someone who tours with the festival around the U.S. and Canada — for the first time this year.

Of the 300 films that are entered in the contest every year, she said, “They only have one thing in common. They’re all about mountains.”

And indeed, it is the only thing they have in common. The short films cover a variety of subjects ranging from the artistic, comedic, and scientific to simply covering mountain sports.

“Crux” was the first film of the night, and stood out as the People’s Choice.

A 12-minute film about trials biking — which, as described by, consists of riding a bike “up, over, and on things most people wouldn’t dream of putting a bike on” — “Crux” struck a chord with Noah Malone and Robin Johnston, two 13-year-olds.

“That was so awesome!” Noah exclaimed as bicyclists spun, balanced and jumped from one end of the screen to the other, backward, sideways, onto benches, fences, and stairs, all with extreme precision and talent.

“We’re jugglers,” Noah said. “We go to Vegas to compete, and we make videos and put them on YouTube.”

The movies, Robin said, are an inspiration. “After coming to the festival a couple of times, we want to make a documentary and narrate it,” he added.

“I’m not a climber or a skater,” host Sharp-Tomlinson said, “but I do enjoy the films. I love the festival, and would never give it up. Not for a million dollars.”

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