The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour will be screening at Key City Theatre on January 7 & 8, 2022, continuing a tradition spanning over three decades. Tasked with helping the planning committee behind the event, I ventured down to the Snowdrift Cafe to meet with Pegg Davidson, Lorna Locke, and Suzanne McAllister over steaming cups of coffee. I emerged with an arm full of posters to pin up — and a deep appreciation for all that these planning committee members had seen and done over their tenure.
This dedicated group of volunteers has brought the world’s best mountain culture and adventure films to a big screen in Cranbrook or Kimberley for “at least 29 years” — long enough for the number to be fuzzy. To put things in perspective, they’ve been at it since before the Northstar Express Quad was built and before Wildsight was even “Wildsight”; it was still the East Kootenay Environmental Society back then.
As we huddled over coffee, I also learned just how much has changed over the years. Back then, tickets cost $7 a seat. They printed the tickets themselves and they were sold out of local shops like Snowdrift Cafe and Bev’s Bookstore. Films used to play at the McKim Middle School theatre until the roof collapsed in 1987. In those days, the movies used to arrive with a big cart that had to be lugged into the theatre and was much more cumbersome than today’s virtually weightless DCP files. For a number of years, they even had to put up the screen themselves because Key City Theatre didn’t have one yet.
Remarkably, only one year has passed without the Banff World Tour playing at a local theatre.
“Last year was the first year it didn’t happen in person,” Pegg explained.
In the face of the pandemic, the committee was able to pull off an online screening in 2021. I could sense it meant a lot to them to see the event happening in-person this year. The current hybrid format, which features two live theatrical screenings in tandem with virtual programs, may be the way of the future.
Indeed, much has changed, including the committee’s decision to take a step back from their roles. The decision stems, in part, from so much change: virtual screenings, online ticket sales, digital marketing, and a global pandemic to name a few. I’ve somehow found myself with the privilege of carrying the torch. To learn the ropes, I asked Pegg, Suzanne, and Lorna a million questions about hosting the festival. Last but not least, I wanted to know what kept them committed for so many years.
“It was so great to work together and to do something that was so successful. It was easy to keep doing it,” Suzanne answered.
“For me, it was getting together for the planning!” Lorna chimed in.
“Planning was always done over food,” Pegg added. She described how the committee would get together to handpick the films that would play with a delicious spread on the table. The committee would also grab a bite to eat between the rehearsal and screening on opening night. “A quick dip into the Taco Time so we can be back in time!” Pegg exclaimed.
One thing that has not changed in all these years is the huge contribution that the festival makes to Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook each year.
“It’s contributed a large portion of our fundraising annually for 30 years,” said Andrea Chapman, Branch Manager at Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook. “It goes into all of our programs and continuing to run our organization. It’s huge, what it does for us. And the fact that they’ve done it as volunteers all these years is incredible,” she added.
Moving forward, we’ll do all that we can to ensure that the Banff World Tour makes its annual pit stop in this neck of the woods — and that the spirit behind the film festival will remain. In other words, planning will continue to be done over a good spread. We will keep the Taco Time tradition alive. And we will get together around the big screen to watch some epic adventure films!
Films have the power to transport us to the highest peaks and immerse us in new experiences without leaving home. They take us on adventures beyond our wildest dreams, challenge what we know to be possible, and fuel our stoke. Considering the state of the world, perhaps it’s more important than ever to gather (safely) at the theatre, watch some mountain films, and leave feeling connected and inspired.
Visit wildsight.ca/banff for tickets and information.
A heartfelt thank you to Pegg Davidson, Lorna Locke, Suzanne McAllister, Lesley Harris, Roy Cimolai, Kathy Murphy, Drew Lyle, and all past members of the planning committee that has brought the Banff World Tour to Cranbrook and Kimberley.