Banff Film Festival exhibits the great outdoors through film


Collegian | Brian Peña

Luke Wilson, Staff Reporter

The lights started to dim on a sea of eager audience members as the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival began. The vibrant sounds and colors of meticulously-shot outdoor footage filled the room as the audience bore witness to marvelous depictions of natural beauty and death-defying stunts in a multitude of different forms.

Skiing, biking, surfing and mountaineering were just a few of the sports presented at their most extreme at the Banff Film Festival.


The activities were shot across a wide variety of incredulous locations featured in the trailer. As the trailer transitioned into a quick speech from Andy Nelson, assistant director of outdoor programs at Colorado State University, and then into the films themselves, it became clear the thrill of watching extreme sports and the awe of seeing natural beauty were not all the festival had to offer.

The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour, put on by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, was displayed at CSU’s Lory Student Center Theatre for the first time since the event went virtual during the pandemic, Nelson said. This continued the partnership between CSU and Banff in providing an in-person event for the people of Fort Collins.

“It’s great to be here, but as I also mentioned in the film, it’s so sad that I cannot enjoy these freedoms or these feelings of security with my loved ones, with my family who are still in Afghanistan,”Zeinab Rezaie, CSU MBA graudate 

All proceeds from the event went to CSU’s Rec Center to continue supporting its mission of getting students active and outdoors to enjoy Colorado and beyond.

During each day of the festival, which took place Feb. 24-26, films ran for an hour before a 15-minute intermission and then continued for another hour. The festival featured a raffle during the intermission each day, with prizes including coffee gift cards and free days at Lake Louise Ski Resort. 

As the festival progressed, it became abundantly clear that the focus of the event extended beyond nature and activities in the outdoors and into concepts such as creativity and social equity.

In a film called “Creation Theory,” primarily following the relationship between extreme surfing and music creation with indie singer Goth Babe, outstanding cinematography is used to craft an understanding of where humanity has come from and where we are going. The film expressed the freedom to create art and to experience the powerful forces of nature.

“Wild Waters” was another standout short film. Following the journey of a kayaker who made it to the upper echelon of the kayaking world, the film shows Nouria Newman’s triumphs over a plethora of obstacles to achieve a status within the sport as one of the best among her female and male counterparts.

Among the rest of the films shown at Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, there was one that exceeded all others in the severity of its subject matter and its relation to Colorado State University: “Free to Run.”

“Free to Run” tells two tumultuous and inspiring stories involving ultramarathon runner and human rights lawyer Stephanie Case.


Case founded the Free to Run organization to empower women in Afghanistan, where citizens were inspired across five of the country’s provinces. Yet when the United States withdrew its military forces from Afghanistan, the organization was no longer able to operate in pursuit of women’s freedoms since the Taliban began to take control of the country.

Case went on to run a record-breaking and extremely painful ultramarathon in honor of the women of Afghanistan, many of whom could not leave the country. One of the women who was able to leave, however, was Zeinab Rezaie, now a recent MBA graduate of Colorado State University. 

“It’s great to be here, but as I also mentioned in the film, it’s so sad that I cannot enjoy these freedoms or these feelings of security with my loved ones, with my family who are still in Afghanistan,” Zeinab said.

The film was a powerful representation of what many people must endure, bringing a very somber, human understanding of the reality some face among the seemingly superhuman feats displayed in films shown at the festival. 

“I think we saw more films that had a bit more of an equity and social justice frame and lens this year,” Nelson said.

It is this element that can make an event like the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival so important. Awe-inspiring moments of extreme outdoor sports and thought-provoking depictions of real suffering could be seen, heard and felt at this festival.

Reach Luke Wilson at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.