Posted by: martinworster | November 29, 2017

Banff Film Festival 2017

Banff Film Festival 2017

20171102_121122[1]I’m in the mountains watching films about the mountains at the biggest Mountain Film Festival in the world: The Banff Mountain Film Festival. I think I might like it here. Even on the bus transfer from Calgary to Banff I knew I was in for a treat as I overheard fellow passengers – and festival attendees – talking about adventures such as skiing across Greenland and free solo climbing jagged peaks on the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. In fact, I recognised many of the faces on this bus as characters I was to watch films about – more on that later.

The festival is part of the circuit – including Telluride and Kendall in the UK – of festivals dedicated to films about action and extreme sports where film makers, producers, camera men (and women) and athletes go to network, booze, showcase their films and ideally win awards. It seems like Banff is the marquee event on this circuit, the Cannes of extreme sports. The setting also helps at the Banff Centre – an amazing campus dedicated to creativity nestled in the Banff valley surrounded by stunning mountains in the Canadian Rockies. The centre is simply beautiful – film and writing workshops, music and painting residencies, lecture halls, theatres, everything for the advancent of creativity and learning. Dotted around the edge of the campus were various cabins in which I was told musicians come on scholarhips to be given the time, space and freedom to create. Highly elevated and cultured principles. I stress again – I think I am going to like it here.

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So film makers and athletes come here to meet other people in the industry I imagine in the hope of collaborating on projects, swapping ideas and maybe to get funding or distribution on their films. Hence everyone has a name tag underwhich it states the name of the film they might be showcasing or the company or brand they work for. National Geographic, Nikon, Red Bull etc. Mine had my name in UPPER CASE and underneath it was blank – hence I did find people slightly looking over my shoulder when I found out that what I did for a living wasn’t connected to this industry. I jest slightly, I’ve done my fair share of extreme sport shenanigans and am an avid enthusiast so felt I earnt my spot at the table.

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Here are some of my film and book talk highlights (bare in mind I only spent four days at the festival which is a week long):

 

Explorers’ Sketchbooks – Huw Lewis-Jones (book talk)

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Fascinating talk from a British historian academic who has unique access to the archives of various explorers, from Scott of Antarctica to Wade Davis – and hence pieces together stories and facts about their lives. His latest book focuses – as the title would imply – on their sketchbooks and is beautifully signed. Huw has an immense passion for his subject which really came through on this fascinating and witty talk making him a bit of a celebrity on the UK. I bought his book for my sons which is now also signed by Huw.

 

Into Twin Galaxies – A Greenland Epic (film)

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Funded by Red Bull – like many of the films here – this beautifully shot adventure chronicles a kite ski traverse across Greenland to the source of a glacial river in time for the melt and subsequent kayak journey back to where they started. All in a days work? It was for the three adventures on a gruelling epic with various injuries and drama to give it dramatic tensions – as if it needed it when the setting is so other worldly. This got a Jury special mention and deservedly so – it was also great to meet all the stars and directors of this film.

 

Psycho Vertical (film)

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Another character – Andy Kirkpatrick – who was on my bus ride out. A bit of a legend in a climbing world, this amusing and insightful biography presented Kirkpatrick as philosopher / comic unlikely antihero. The film was really well put together, the score was pitch perfect as well as the merging of the climbers childhood drawings with footage of an epic solo ascent of El Capitan. The film really got under the skin of Kirkpatrick, with a self narrative split between psychologists couch with a stand up comics timing and delivery. This one one best film in the Climbing category.

 

Last Honey Hunter (film)

 

A nice insight into another world, culture and tradition. Braving height and bee stings, Maule Dhan Rai is the last man carrying on the tradition of gathering honey from the side of mountainous cliffs perched on rope. The honey is revered for its pyschedelic qualities and Maule is visited in a dream by the wrathful forest spirit called Rongkemi. Amazing footage, there’s even GoPro cameras in the honey baskets – you’re right in the action and hence fully immersed in the story. This won the award for Best Film: Mountain Culture.

 

The Frozen Road (film)

The Frozen Road (Trailer) from Another Horizon on Vimeo.

I only saw the second half of this short film so I will be hunting it down when I can. The bit I saw was very good. I am also mentioning it as I met the director and producer Ben Page and he’s a lovely lad. This also got a special mention from the jury.

 

A Line In The Snow – Greece (film)

A Line in the Snow – Greece from Ben Tibbetts on Vimeo.

 

You can ski in Greece. It’s not just postcard perfect islands in the Mediterranen for either romantic getaways or packaged piss ups. Greece has mountains. And you can ski there. Beautifully shot and some great mountain action from Ben Tibbetts.

 

Bullock, Boswell, and the Bear (talk)

Celebrated Alpinists Nick Bullock – also on my bus journey – and Greg Boswell were climbing in the Canadian Rockies – when Boswell got attacked by a grizzly bear. They each give their account of the situation in a very witty British manner, not unlike being told the story in an old pub whilst nursing a pint of bitter. Very entertaining. A bonus they lived to tell the tale.

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These are just some of the highlights of the films I saw. It was very energising and inspiring meeting all these people who were seriously pursuing their dreams. Pushing themselves to the limits to explore the world and open our eyes to different cultures and parts of this increasingly small planet. That was another big take home for me – how for many of these film makers it really is a labour of love. They are pursuing their passions in front of a camera and they are probably not getting paid lots of money. In fact many are probably not making a living at all. That’s the point I suppose – it’s not all about money. That was also kind of inspiring.

Festival Take Home:

Visiting the festival was a revealing insight into this world and the process of getting a film out to a wider audience – probably with the end game of wider distribution / funding off the back of – in an ideal world – winning an award for their film. I also deduced that a successful film is more than just shooting extreme action for no reason other than creating ski / climb / snowboard / surf porn (delete where applicable). The story must have an interesting narrative, a personal story, a revealing of or insight into a culture or peoples, a worthy cause, maybe some humour – something, some dramatic tension, interest and colour to the story other than shots of an extreme sports person doing what they do really well. There’s enough sports porn out there – and I myself enjoy consuming it – but for a film to resonate and stick with an audience, it must have something more to it. Those were the films that really hit the spot – both with the audiences and the jury – as evidenced by the 2017 winner the ‘Last Honey Hunter’. I now need to think of my interesting idea to turn into a film for next years Jury Selection.

 

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(A broken thumb after a silly ski accident required medication. Doctors orders)

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Posted by: martinworster | October 28, 2017

Just Say Thanks

Avoid my road rage and exercise some manners whilst driving…

Aghh, what’s the point? You’ve lived here long enough to know things are different, it’s a pointless and exhausting to constantly compare everything. Get over it – shit’s different in the US of A. But one thing that really gets me agitated is when people don’t say ‘thank you’ when you let them out in traffic. Driving along a congested road and you see someone trying to get out on the main road – so you stop and courteously let them go whilst smiling and gesticulating with your hand as you wave them in. And then…nothing. Not even a smile, friendly wave or any other form of thanks or recognition back. Zilch. Nada. Sweet FA.

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That’s when my blood boils and I start unleashing expletives. ‘THANK YOU! MANNERS DON’T COST ANYTHING!! ****!!’

But do they really need to say thank you? I am living in a different country with a different culture, values and habits – so get used to it. But I absolutely do think you should be thanked when you let someone ahead of you. I think it makes for a more civilised society and manners are a mark of culture and respect. Plus, yes, they don’t cost anything. It all gets a bit ‘dog eat dog’ if everyone just races through life without consideration and good manners to others.

I even got into a bit of a dispute over it with an another driver the other day – who didn’t say thanks so I slightly honked him and mouthed ‘why not say thanks?’ He then pulled up next to me and wound down his window and we had a slightly heated discussion:

‘Why did you honk me’
‘Because you didn’t say thanks when I let you in and I found it rude’
‘I don’t need to say thanks. Do you just do things to get a thank you reward? I think it’s rude you honked me. Are you trying to teach me manners?
‘Yes, I am, if you don’t know it how else will you learn – unless I teach you?

On and on it went. I admit I was in a bit of a bad mood that day and perhaps the horn toot was a tad OTT. Normally I would just scream in my enclosed car space whilst simultaneously raising my blood pressure and going tomatoe red without hitting the horn. The exchange wasn’t too angry with raised voices etc – more a slightly heated debate on manners, like a lost scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Hopefully he did learn something new – although the lesson delivered in a British accent might have sounded a little snooty. ‘Coming over here, telling us how to behave, who do they think they are?’

Interestingly, I think it is a cultural thing as drivers here don’t have the habit of turning on the hazard lights as a thank you for letting them in on the motorway / freeway that we utilise in the UK. I think manners and politeness make for a better society and I am happy to continue my on-road lessons. Just say thanks. That’s all I ask.

Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Laundry, Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Florista, Market, Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Ruins and Volcanos, Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Mayan Family, Fruit Market, Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Fruit Seller, Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Colourful Buildings – Antigua, Guatemala

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2017

Antigua, Guatemala, Fruit Market

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Posted by: martinworster | April 17, 2017

Adam Ant / Kate Tempest

In the last two months I saw two UK musical geniuses – from completely different generations – here in Southern California at the OC Observatory. They were both a bit of a revelation for me.

Adam Ant: Ant Music and Antmania

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Adam Ant from my phone (hence poor quality)

As a child of the late 70s and 80s my first inroad to Adam Ant was via his position as a major pop star in early 80s UK. ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Stand and Deliver’, ‘Ant Music’, ‘Goody Two Shoes’ and his other hits were Top of The Pops staples. Like Boy George, he inspired a cult fan base who would dress like and mimic their idols, in the case of Adam the look was New Romantic meets pirate. In a pre-internet world of – at the time – 3 TV channels in the UK, media penetration was much more incisive and hence more influential as a whole generation could be mesmerised by a single TV performance. Cue David Bowie, Boy George, Duran Duran et al.

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Ridicule is nothing to be scared of…

 

Adam Ant came back onto my radar in the early 00s as I read about his struggles with mental illness. This culminated in him being sectioned (committed) under the Mental Health Act in the UK after a string of troubled public appearances, including unleashing a tirade of abuse to Christians at a charity gig. In one incident he threatened a neighbour with a spade after a dispute and in another he threatened drinkers in a North London pub with an imitation gun. Then again, he might have just been miming along to one of his best known 80s hits ‘Stand And Deliver’.

 

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Adam Ant, Observatory, Orange County, February 17th 2017

 

Flash forward to February 2017 and Adam was in the OC to sing his ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ album in its entirety and then throw in some of his other hits for good measure. The place was packed to capacity. Clearly an older audience, there were even some more cultish fans dressed up in the Adam Ant pirate look with the wide rimmed pirated hat and striped face paints. I was amazed to see this person who peaked commercially in the early 80s still had such a rabid fan base, almost forty years later. The other interesting angle was most of these fans had first come into contact with Adam through his late 70s punk career. I don’t think Adam was such a massive pop star in the US like the UK where we had full on Antmania.

 

 

Adam – who must be into his early 60s, but looking very spritely and half his age – was amazing. He prowled around the stage and snarled at the audience. He had a really good way of addressing the crowd, never really fully engaging with eye contact, that combative punk spirit still shining through. His performance gave me the feeling how mental illness and creativity can tread a very thin line. It was a kind of possesed performance and I felt honoured to see this total maverick live. In the current homogenous world of one hit YouTube anodyne pop stars, they don’t make ’em like this anymore.

 

Kate Tempest

 

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Kate Tempest. It’s a London ting…

 

Or maybe they do make them like this anymore? Kate stood and delivered but for total different reasons and with a talent, that, for me, was close to genious. We were lucky enough to see Kate in the smaller capacity room – The Constellation – which holds 250 and on the night there must have been barely 70 people in the house. It seems like Kate is approaching minor national treasure in the wings status in the UK, so it felt a real priviledge to see her in such intimate environs.

Kate had first come onto my radar through listening to 6 Music and her songs creeping onto the playlists – very spoken word, narrative driven, very earnest and very, very honest. To be frank, I thought that at this point she’s good but I probably would not have driven up to LA to see her, but would definitely be up for seeing her locally in the OC. I’m glad I did.

Prior to the concert – as part of her probably exhausting commercial campaign to try and ‘break the US market – she’d perfomed on Jimmie Fallon. Just look at this performance. Incredible stuff for prime time US TV. The performance is for me spellbinding and very brave for this type of TV slot.

 

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On the day of the performance an Islamist fanatic had ploughed down three people on Westminster Bridge in London in his car and then stabbed to death a police officer outside the House of Commons. As an avowed fellow Londoner, I wondered if Kate would mention this in her peformance. She didn’t. And I’m pleased she didn’t. With the ever encroaching deluge and meaningless sludge of social media – one of Kate’s regular themes – we all know what’s going on. Mentioning it in a performance, ‘thoughts and prayers etc’ (pass the vomit bucket), won’t do anything and it’s good not to give this hate-fuelled nonsense any more air time.

 

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Kate was mind blowing. She asked everyone to move closer at the beginning of the show. We all shuffled forward. It got even more intimate. Kate – a prize winning author and published author – is an incredible wordsmith and poet. Her wordplay is phenomenal, I don’t know how she remembers it all, the mind bending rhyming structures, visual turns of phrase, imagery, intonations, multiple narratives, wordplay and cadences. She paints quite a bleak picture of contemporary urban life for the millennial with enough relevance and feeling to draw in other generations – including myself. She cares about the world. She’s proper vexed at how things are, the injustice, anti-social media, loneliness, low paid jobs, boredom, existential angst, corruption of power, celebrity fixations, climatic meltdown, a brooding apocalypse, the whole anxiety and emptiness of 2017 living. She nails it. With emotion and conviction In a world of vanilla pop blandness, superficial shite and people who don’t care Kate’s the tempest we need. Taxi.

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