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vimff award winning films laurels

VIMFF Winning Films Laurels black



Into The Canyon

Director: Pete McBride

In 2016 filmmaker/photographer Pete McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko set out on a 750-mile journey on foot through the entire length of the Grand Canyon. From the outset, the challenge was far more than they bargained for. More people have stood on the moon than have completed a continuous through hike of the Canyon. McBride and Fedarko took a sectional approach, achieving a feat that many adventurers have taken decades to complete. Others have lost their lives trying. But their quest was more than just an endurance test – it was also a way to draw attention to the unprecedented threats facing one of our most revered landscapes.

It is a real joy to follow Pete McBride and Kevin Fadarko on their journey through the Grand Canyon in Into the Canyon.  The brilliance of the film is that it works on a number of levels: it weaves outdoor adventure, politics and most importantly, personality, together in a masterfully crafted narrative that is at once entertaining and provocative. We all agreed: Into the Canyon was an easy choice for Grand Prize.

— Karen Duthie – VIMFF 2020 Jury

VIMFF Winning Films Laurels black


vimff weight of water

The Weight of Water

Director: Michael Brown

The Weight of Water is the story of a blind adventurer taking on an absurdly improbable challenge, kayaking the Grand Canyon. He desires the elusive state of being that so many of us seek, to be engaged in the present moment.

“It’s so hard to be fully in the moment because there’s so much fear, there’s so much anxiety, it’s like a person looking through a window at an experience rather than being in the experience.”

— Erik Weihenmayer.

It is seldom that audiences watch a film with jaws dropped in awe – but witnessing blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer navigate the Colorado River in a kayak in Weight of Water does just that.  It’s a heartfelt and intimate portrayal of a man accomplishing something that is seemingly impossible.  The film succeeds in bringing the audience along on the adventure through masterful cinematography, emotional editing and thoughtful sound design and as such, is the right fit for the Best Adventure award.

— Karen Duthie – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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Presented by the BCMC

vimff piano to zanskar featured

Piano To Zanskar

Director: Michal Sulima

Facing his future in retirement, “sitting in deck chairs and eating lemon drizzle cake”, 65 year old piano tuner, Desmond O’Keeffe, decides instead to take on the most challenging and perilous delivery of his four decade career: transporting a 100 year-old, 80 kilo, Broadwood and Sons upright piano, from bustling London to the remote heart of the Indian Himalayas.

The essence of an excellent adventure is not only the adventure itself, nor the challenges, nor the triumphs, but also the people you collect and meet along the way.  This film captures the essence of the ‘VIMFF Mountain Culture Award’ by its exposure to the power of the human spirit, the creative ingenuity, and kindness along the way. Music has a way of connecting us all regardless of our differences.

— Jill Johnson – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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Presented by the Alpine Club of Canada

vimff climbing blind featured

Climbing Blind

Director: Alastair Lee

Jesse Dufton was born with 20% central vision. At four years of age Jesse was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa: a rare genetic disease that breaks down the retinas’ cells. At aged 20 Jesse could no longer read, by the time he was 30 his vision was reduced to just light perception with around 1 or 2 % field of view. As a life long climber, Jesse flies in the face of adversity training for world cup events and leading traditional rock climbs with his sight guide and fiancee Molly. As his sight degenerates his climbing continues to make remarkable progress. Despite his devastating condition Jesse only takes on bigger challenges by attempting to be the first blind person to make a ‘non-sight’ lead of the iconic Old Man of Hoy sea stack in Scotland.

As the Best Climbing Film of 2020, Climbing Blind will leave you  feeling for more. This film captures the visceral and tactile nature of climbing. Jesse, along with his incredible partner, Molly, go on a journey which captures the spirit of adventure regardless of Life’s adversity. This film based in the stunning Orkney Islands captures the essence of ‘feeling a climb’ – no sight needed.

— Jill Johnson – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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The Endless Chain

Director: Benjamin Jordan

To redefine his concept of manhood, a paraglider pilot pushes his mind and body to the absolute limit during the most daring series of Rocky Mountain flights in history.

Ben Jordan is on a mission to answer a simple question. What does it mean to be a man? His means to find the answer is to fly unaided by paraglider from Montana 1200 kms north into the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Jasper’s famous “Endless Chain” ridge. Ben’s ability to face life threatening situations throughout his journey with a wise cracking almost cavalier attitude makes the true gravity of what he is attempting even more astonishing. Starving, freezing, and dodging storms of self doubt he faces his demons with peanut butter fueled courage that is amplified by the sheer majesty of the backdrop he is crisscrossing. A solitary journey made even more so when his only connection to the outside world and potential rescue is damaged and renders him thoroughly alone. A truly inspiring adventure that gives the viewer a window into one man’s personal journey.

— Scott Thompson – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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vimff the running pastor featured

The Running Pastor

Director: Directed by Tim Kemple

A story about Sverri Steinholm, a Faroese trail running pastor that explores the relationship of his spirituality both through his experiences in the outdoors and in a traditional “church” / community. Sverri is an avid runner, who uses his time on the trails to work through not only his personal conflicts, but the conflicts of others. He often is burdened to bear being the local Pastor who must keep everyone’s secrets.

The Running Pastor is set in the Faroe Islands midway between Scotland and Iceland. A cold and remote setting for a heartwarming tale of a local pastor and his spiritual connection to running the rugged hills and dales he was raised on. Beautifully shot with a personal narration by our pastor Sverri Steinholm. His joy for running in the not always friendly elements is what fuels this film. He expresses his love for running in the cold and feeling nature scratching him as he picks his way along the slippery ridges high above the crashing sea. Pure poetry!

— Mina Khatam – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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The River & The Wall

Director: Ben Masters

This urgent and compelling doc follows five friends as they venture into the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands and travel 1,200 miles along the Rio Grande. On horses, mountain bikes, and canoes, they set out to document the potential impacts of a Wall on the natural environment. As the wilderness gives way to the more populated and heavily trafficked Lower Rio Grande Valley, they come face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate and enter uncharted emotional waters.

The USA is facing many challenges these days. Immigration through it’s southern border with Mexico has become the latest tinder box. The River and the Wall does an excellent job of humanizing the potential outcomes of building a physical wall to stop immigrant traffic. The visual beauty of the Rio Grande river and the wildlife it is home to is in sharp contrast with the policies created a world away in Washington and the White House’s ability to grasp the impact a wall would have on so many people and animals. Migration back and forth throughout the seasons would put many species at risk. Visually told with adventure woven throughout as a small group of concerned friends navigate the length of the proposed Wall the film addresses many issues as told by both residents north and south of the US Mexico border. A timely film that brings this serious undertaking well in to focus. We owe a debt to these filmmakers for summarizing the issue so beautifully.

— Mina Khatam – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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vimff allein featured


Director:Franz Walter

Every year we get a little older. One day you turn 50. How you choose to celebrate is up to you. Alpinist and mountain guide Robert Jasper is heading out to Greenland for a solo expedition.

He leaves the small village of Kulusuk with his sea kayak. After twelve days of paddling and carrying heavy loads Robert reaches his basecamp at the foot of Molar Spire. Calmly, concentrated and all by himself he begins the ascent of this 500m rock face.

Allein is a lovely short film that embodies the spirit of the mountain film genre. In only 10 short minutes, the audience is taken by kayak and harness to a remote peak in Greenland, with solo adventurer Robert Jasper.  But we also accompany him as he sets up gorgeous shots, and are given a peek into how much more demanding a such massive adventure is to film while alone.  Add poetic, thoughtful and refreshingly clear writing, this straightforward film quickly rose to the top of the Best Short category.

— Karen Duthie – VIMFF 2020 Jury

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Jury’s Special Mention


Hors Piste

Director: Leo Brunel

The two best rescue workers of the region are ready for their new mission. Despite their professionalism and their determination, it will not go as planned…

Hors Piste tickles not just the funny bone with it’s wonderful sense of comedic timing, it is beautifully rendered and deftly animated, making it difficult to believe it’s a student film. Free of dialogue it allows any audience to feel the pain of our injured skier as he is “rescued” by a couple of well meaning but bungling saviours. Laugh a minute, I loved it!

— Scott Thompson – VIMFF 2020 Jury


vimff film jury Jill Johnson

Jill Hope Johnson

Jill is an accomplished creator, adventurer, producer and writer and is pleased to be assisting the VIMFF awards jury. Jill has played the roles of both cast and/or crew for a variety of film and stage adventures. Jill is an active member of Women in Film and Television and has volunteered on various Film and Theatre selection committees. Currently, she manages North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre. When not at her desk, she is always up for the next adventure; heli-hiking in grizzly country, paddle boarding with mosquitos, and cooking with fire.

vimff film jury Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson

Scott is a serial entrepreneur who started his first company, a sportfishing outlet in the remote wilds of British Columbia, at the age of nineteen. While expanding to include a marine pub and restaurant, he attended film school and set his eye on the new exploding computer graphics industry. After training in 3D he spent ten years as a computer animator and supervisor for film and television in Vancouver and Southern Europe. In 2005 he launched Think Tank Training Centre a small boutique 3D VFX and Animation college that has risen to the top of the field. Recently ranked number one in the world in Video Game production training from a pool of over 500 schools.

vimff film jury Mina Khatam

Mina Khatam

Mina works in the nonprofit performing arts industry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Dramatic Arts and a diploma in Arts Management. Mina worked with several Vancouver arts organizations and events such as the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Reel 2 Real International Film Festival and the Leo Awards. Mina is passionate about nature and the outdoors and enjoys hiking, kayaking, boating and distance running.

vimff film jury Karen Duthie

Karen Duthie

Karen is a Vancouver based director, story editor and filmmaker who has worked in factual/documentary television and independent film for more than 15 years. Her documentary 100% Woman won many festival awards, including Best Mountain Biking Film at the 2005 Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. She won a Gemini Award for Best Direction for the television show Conviction Kitchen. When not immersed in story telling, Karen can be found riding mountain bikes on Vancouver’s North Shore, or surfing on Haida Gwaii’s North Beach.