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Film Awards 2021

We are incredibly proud to announce the VIMFF 2021 Film Awards.

This year’s talented jury included adventure photographer Pat Morrow, award-winning director Paweł Wysoczański, film-maker and photographer Peruzzo de Andrade and Festival Director for the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Joanna Croston. They have selected eight awards and a special mention.

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Horse Tamer

Director: Hamid Sardar

In the Darhat valley in northern Mongolia, the horses of nomadic tribes are disappearing. Bandits steal horses from their owners, and sell them for a few rubles in Russian slaughterhouses. But Shukhert, a vigilante Darhat horseman, pursues them relentlessly, all the way to the edge of Mongolian taiga, on the border with Siberia.

Documenting the lifestyle of the last nomads for over ten years, director and ethnographer Hamid Sardar is invited to follow Shukhert on his eternal journey. Between tribal rivalries, smuggling and gold searching, Hamid explores what horse stealing means in Mongolia today.

Growing up, my grandfather would tell me stories that felt larger than life, and for some people even felt implausible. Stories of bravery, tragedy, innovation, supernatural experiences and connection. In Sardar’s film The Horse Tamer, I was reminded of the awe and power of stories from deep connection to place, memories and the natural world. Stories that are told from the inside out. It is clear that the production of this film required the director to seek meaningful relationships and act with integrity and cultural resonance. Folded into an examination of human limitations and possibility, Sardar achieved an outstanding production which the jury determined the recipient of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival Grand Prize.

— Peruzzo de Andrade, VIMFF 2021 Jury Member


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Wall of Shadows

Director: Eliza Kubarska

A Sherpa family breaks a taboo and climbs the most holy of mountains to earn money for their son’s education. They accompany a Western expedition on the east wall of the Khumbakarna Mountain, a wall that has never been climbed before.

The Wall of Shadows tells the story of an encounter between a young Sherpa boy and an experienced Western mountaineer at the foot of the sacred mountain. Will they face the wrath of mountain Gods?

Eliza Kubarska’s experience from climbing in the Himalaya and Karakorum allowed her to forge a compelling story that bares the vulnerability of indigenous families when they are forced by economic reality to work for highly driven western climbers whose value systems are vastly different, but whose life goals are in some ways the same.

— Pat Morrow, VIMFF 2021 Jury Member



Irakli’s Lantern

Director: Ben Page

High in the Caucasus mountains of Georgia, 78 year old Irakli Khvedaguridze has spent the last 25 winters living alone as the last inhabitant of Europe’s highest village.

What makes this film unique is not only the fact that it’s about the last living inhabitant of the highest village in Europe. The gentleness, subtlety and consistency with which the authors show their protagonist makes the story compelling, even hypnotising. This beautiful, contemplative picture talks about love for the mountains without glitz or grandiloquence. Set in a small Georgian village, it is enchanting in its simplicity and authenticity. The protagonist is faithful to the place he comes from and, in some strange way, inspires envy. Amid the hustle and bustle of today’s world, “The Last Inhabitant” has something humans lost a long time ago.

We are genuinely in awe of the form the authors use to tell this story: the cinematography, the editing, the music, the sound, and even the on-screen text are just perfect. It is a true work of art.

— Paweł Wysoczański – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member

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Free As Can Be

Director: Samuel Crossley

When a young climber infatuated with climbing history meets an old legend, he commits to helping him accomplish his lifelong goal of free climbing El Capitan.

Free As Can Be is not your typical climbing film. Director Samuel Crossley takes us on an authentic storytelling journey on El Capitan with an unlikely partnership of two anti-heroes trying to reach outlandish goals. The film breaks from the formulaic tradition in the genre casting away clichés and machoism while perfectly capturing the spirit of a great climbing companionship by showcasing struggles, vulnerability, love, humour and ultimately the bonds of unwavering friendship. For creating a unique and heartfelt narrative, the 2021 VIMFF Film Jury is delighted to present Sam Crossley with the award for Best Climbing Film.

— Joanna Croston – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member




Directors: Zac Hoffman & Casey Dubois

Life can be beautiful. Life can be messy. Add in the struggles of addiction and life can often become overwhelming.

As trauma, depression, heartbreak and declining mental health were woven into Harvey Wright’s internal fabric, so was rock climbing. Climbing gave him purpose and helped him to connect with nature, with others and with himself. Passion and healing followed but his mental health was to be massively tested by the global pandemic, with self-isolation forcing Harvey away from the climbing lifestyle.

Crux tells the story of Harvey’s recovery as he learns to love himself amidst the mountains of his life.

Crux was the recipient of the VIMFF Adventure Film Grant presented by Arc’teryx.

They say you can tell a climbing film is good when it makes your palms sweat. Well, Crux made our palms sweat, even in scenes when Harvey Wright, the lead character, wasn’t climbing. The jury felt that both the filmmakers and their subject went out on a psychological limb to tell this difficult story, and their absolute trust in each other resulted in this fine film.

— Pat Morrow, VIMFF 2021 Jury Member



Confessions of a Runner

Director: Bachar Khattar

Ultra-running evokes notions of insanity, dedication, and the pursuit of mind over body. A blend of eye-popping scenery, extreme human achievement, and revealing personal stories, this film features Patrick Vaughan, an accomplished trail runner.

Patrick shares his heartfelt story of healing and redemption while pursuing the record for completing the 470-kilometre Lebanon Mountain Trail, traversing from Syria to the Israeli border.

Confessions of a Runner is a personal journey taken stride by stride along the spine of Lebanon’s scenic mountains. The film is a testament to the healing qualities of pushing one’s mind and body to the brink and coming through the darkness of depression and addiction using ultra-running as the vehicle. Director Bachar Khattar’s delicate treatment of the broken protagonist, Patrick Vaughan, allows the viewer to genuinely enter the experience of redemption and self-discovery while breaking records along the way. For excellence and authenticity in filmmaking, the 2021 VIMFF Film Jury is pleased to award the Best Mountain Sports Film to Bachar Khattar and Confessions of a Runner.

— Joanna Croston – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member



Echoes in the Arctic

Directors: Andy Maser, Tahria Sheather, and Paul Nicklen

Echoes In The Arctic follows celebrated wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen and a team of dedicated filmmakers and scientists on a vivid cinematic journey as they document the world’s healthiest orca population in the Norwegian Arctic to help protect the ecosystem from oil exploration.

Sometimes in order for us to gain a deeper understanding of the human experience, we must turn to the natural world and non-human relations. Echos in the Arctic, directed by Andy Maser, Tahria Sheather and Paul Nicklen depicts the majesty and mystery of the world’s healthiest orca population in the Norwegian Arctic while also illuminating their interdependence to human action, decisions and local climate action leadership. The jury identified this film as a strong example of the power of film and strong production collaboration as educational tools for empowerment, action and Land-based accountability. Congratulations to Echoes in the Arctic for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival’s award for Best Environmental Film.

— Peruzzo de Andrade – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member

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The Great Milestone

Director: Ignasi Lopez Fabregas

A well-off mountaineer’s hobby is reaching the summits of the highest mountains. He has one last goal to accomplish in order to complete this special collection: that impossible summit, the one he is determined to climb, whatever it takes. A woman bored of waiting for her husband to return from his excitement-packed mountain escapades has decided to seek some adventure of her own and attempt a more modest ascent. She will have to overcome obstacles that will prove to be more difficult than actually reaching the summit. The destinies of both characters come together as they pursue their respective goals.

What’s the best way to fight against the pandemic? How to fend off depression and lethargy? This film is the perfect remedy, with its sense of humour, the charming protagonists, and a vertical face better than El Capitan… This brilliant and very funny piece has everything a short film needs, packing a whole lot of terrific ideas within a limited running time, and leading to a surprising punchline. It’s great fun, but at the same time a wise history lesson: skirts are just as good as trousers, and even if in some cases they aren’t, the problem can be easily solved.

The film allows us to witness the determination of the first conquerors, to understand the problems they faced and how they navigated them. The language used by the protagonists should be made mandatory for climbers across the world. ¡Viva El Monte Imposible!

— Paweł Wysoczański – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member


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Lost at Sea

Director: Johnny Burke

An epic tale of the sea, told through one young man’s personal journey to understand his father, Peter Bird, who in 1983 was the first person to single-handedly row the Pacific ocean, but who later disappeared at sea.

Peter’s son Louis was just four years old when his Dad died, and now nearly 25 years later, he sets out to discover who his father really was, and why he spent so many years of his life alone at sea.

Director Johnny Burke has brilliantly captured the intensely personal history of first time adventurer Louis Bird in his film Lost at Sea. This film beckons you in with its fine editing, engaging interviews and quirky archival footage but you stay captivated and longing for more once you realize that the soul searching path followed by Bird is more about the healing journey than the destination. This raw and brutally honest documentary sets a new bar for the adventure film genre. For exceptional craftsmanship and outstanding narrative, the 2021 is honoured to acknowledge Johnny Burke with a Special Jury Mention.

— Joanna Croston – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member


Vimff Jury Joanna Croston

Joanna Croston

Joanna Croston grew up and went to university in Eastern Canada and moved to the Canadian Rockies permanently in 1998. She has climbed many of the classic 11,000 ft peaks in the area and is an avid backcountry skier having toured throughout North America, The Alps, Japan, Kashmir and the Indian Himalaya. As a voracious reader of mountain literature and a die-hard film enthusiast, she is the Festival Director for the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival. Her writing has appeared in Highline Magazine, Gripped, The Canadian Alpine Journal, The Canadian Rockies Annual and Alpinist. She is the author of Breaking Trail: The Chic Scott Story and her work is part of the Waymaking anthology, an award-winning collection of women’s adventure writing published in Autumn 2018. She serves on the Mountain Culture Committee of the Alpine Club of Canada and is the former North American representative for the International Alliance for Mountain Film.

Vimff Jury Peruzzo De Andrade

Peruzzo de Andrade

Peruzzo is a Cáa-Poré, Cafuzo film-maker and photographer. Born and raised between Rio Paranaíba (Paranaiba River) and Rio Grande (Grande River) in the interior of what today is called Brazil. He is a mixed-media storyteller examining the interconnectivity between identity, land and wellbeing (M.A. in Social Dimensions of Health). His work examines intersectional Indigenous storytelling through visual arts narratives, Film and Community-Governance.

Vimff Jury Pawel Wysoczanski

Paweł Wysoczański

Pawel is an award-winning director, screenwriter and producer. His 2015 film ‘Jurek’- a portrait of Jerzy Kukuczka, a world-famous Himalayan and Karakorum mountaineer, received festival awards around the world including the Grand Prize at VIMFF. In collaboration with the Polish Consulate in Toronto, he leads film workshops with Polish Canadian students and in 2020 he finished his latest film – ‘Long Day Tomorrow’ which took 8 years to complete. Pawel is the founder and owner of Black and White Productions film company. He lives in Warsaw, Poland.

Vimff Jury Pat Morrow

Pat Morrow

Pat is an adventure photographer based in Invermere, B.C. and has worked on magazine, book and corporate assignments, and video documentaries worldwide for 35 years. Pat was the first to climb the Seven Summits (as documented in his book Beyond Everest), and received the Order of Canada for his photographic and exploratory work. Pat received the Summit of Excellence award from the Banff Mountain Film Festival, is an honorary member of the Alpine Club of Canada, and he and wife Baiba are honorary Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and now concentrate their volunteer efforts on the environmental organization Wildsight.

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EARLY BIRD: Oct 18 – 24

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