Prove your humanity

Like so many other things, the Pittsburgh stop of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour scheduled for April 3rd – 5th was canceled. The event is an annual showcase of some of the best films that celebrate the outdoors, from high-adrenaline sports to local activism.  The cancelation was sad news for Elly Fisher, who celebrates her birthday every year by going to the festival with a group of friends. 

“I was so bummed,” she said. “I mean I never go to movies and this was the one show I go to.” 

LISTEN: Environmental Film Festival Now Showing In Your Living Room

But there is a silver lining. Festival organizers worked with filmmakers to bring about 100 of the movies online for free. New ones are added regularly. So if you’ve burned through all of Netflix already, you have some new options. 

Jim Baker is the manager of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour. He said that the experience of seeing these films online can be a mixed one.

“There’s obviously inspiration and adventure and entertainment but also an appreciation for what we’ve lost,” Baker said. “Those of us who are confined to our homes have a strong desire to be back out there in the natural world. Hopefully, the films can help build that interest while helping us get through it.” 

The film festival has partner organizations in every city on its world tour. The nonprofit Venture Outdoors was set to host the Pittsburgh show at the Byham Theater. It’s been a sell-out fundraiser for them for years.

This year, attendees had the choice to get a refund or donate the ticket price back to the organization. Elly Fisher gladly chose the latter. And she’s looking forward to the virtual watch party Venture Outdoors is planning for later this month. But she still really missed her birthday tradition of attending the festival with friends. 

For the last several years, one friend brings an angel food cake with us and we sit in the theater and pass the angel food cake up and down the aisle and pick it at with our fingers,” she said. “It makes for a wonderful celebration.”

Elly Fisher and friends celebrate her birthday at last year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Also pictured, an angel food cake. Photo courtesy of Elly Fisher

Instead, Fisher and her two kids spent her birthday night streaming a number of the films on YouTube and watched from their couch. A new birthday memory was formed. 

“That was the positive thing about this,” she said. “I’ve never taken my children to it because it’s always too late so they actually got to see the shows this time, too.”

Here are some of our favorites:

Life of Pi is a short documentary that proves pizza and bikes can fix anything. It tells the story of two mountain bikers who moved to a small town in Colorado in search of cheap rent and good trails. Fifteen years later, the couple now run a beloved pizza shop and have helped transform their conservative town into what one customer called a ‘welcoming living room to the great outdoors.’ 

For the Love of Mary features a 97-year-old State College resident, George Etzweiler, who runs to the summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington every year in the memory of his late wife. Warning: it’s a tear-jerker. 

Holy Unholy River is a breathtakingly gorgeous 60-minute film that looks at the Ganges River from the headwaters all the way to the outflow from a both an environmental and cultural and adventure perspective.

How to Run 100 Miles follows friends Brendan Leonard and Jayson Sime as they decide to sign up for a 102.9-mile race in Colorado. They figured since they weren’t naturally talented runners, the best thing they could do is work hard. So they did. And then. . .  well, you’ll just have to watch the film.

For adrenaline junkies, don’t miss these 3-8 minute shorts: 

Speak Softly to Me: Rock climber Jenny Abegg ascends Moonlight Buttress (fighting self-criticism and doubt along the way).

The Rivers Call: Follow seven kayakers as they attempt the challenging whitewater of the Rio Apurimac in Southern Peru. The stretch of river is the farthermost source of the Amazon River in the heart of the Andes. 

The Flip: BASE jumper Remi Angeli faces his fears to try a flip off a ridiculously high bridge in Mexico.

Far Out: Eleven-year-old extreme skier Kai Jones can’t go see The Avengers alone at the movies but he can do some crazy backflips off of cliffs.