The Banff Mountain Film Festival UK & Ireland Tour is currently visiting the UK and includes fascinating films about cycling, especially Western Highlands Way and follow the light.
The festival attracts some of the world’s finest filmmakers and accomplished outdoor personalities to celebrate adventure, the environment, mountain culture and the outdoors through film.
From more than 300 entries, 13 films were chosen to be part of the prestigious festival this year, ranging from moving tales of overcoming adversity through perseverance to high-adrenaline action.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival has been held annually since 1975.
West Highland Way: Rab Wardell’s record attempt
West Highland Way follows Scottish cyclist Rab Wardell’s record attempt over a 96-mile course that includes 10,000 feet of climbing through some of Scotland’s toughest terrain.
It’s a heartwarming, raw and funny account of Wardell’s record attempt.
“Being nominated for an award and then going on the Banff World Tour means the world to me,” said Wardell, who is a UCI XCO World Cup rider and represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games.
“Being able to make films about off-road cycling, especially back home in Scotland, is a real highlight of my career and something I’m really proud of.
“I grew up obsessively watching movies about racing, freeriding, bike trials and all sorts of things, I was the type of person who used the VHS tape because I had watched the movies so much, so it’s a dream to be able to make movies about riding and racing my bike for a living.
Wardell is a mountain biker at heart, but also loves road, gravel, cyclocross, track and even BMX. “If it has two wheels and handlebars, then I’ll probably like it,” he says.
Wardell traveled the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William in 9h 14min 32sec on September 18, 2020, setting a new FKT. His record has since been broken by Connor Swift.
“I was pretty happy when Connor lowered the time again, because he and I had talked quite a bit during the prep.” He had had the idea to walk the West Highland Way after seeing the film,” says Wardell.
The West Highland Way follows old cattle drives and 18th century military roads along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, through Rannoch Moor, and up the zigzag ascent of the Devil’s Staircase trail in Glencoe before reaching its final destination in Lochaber.
The Scottish cyclist hopes the film will inspire more people to walk, run or ride the West Highland Way.
“What’s so fantastic about the West Highland Way is that it’s really challenging for so many people, yet so accessible,” he explains.
“No matter your fitness level, you can walk or do a short section, or try to do the entire route in one day.”
Wardell is also not ready to leave the West Highland Way just yet.
“I would also like to set an FKT for the West Highland Way unsupported for the first time, and I think with the right conditions I can challenge Connor’s time of 8 hours and 32 minutes.
“We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m delighted to give him a chance.”
Filming in such remote and technical locations came with its own set of challenges, as filmmaker Andy Ashworth explains: “We were constantly rushing to catch up with Rab to film him, with three camera crews scrambling all day to capture different parts of the course. .
“We used cars, boats, e-bikes and drones to capture as much as possible on the day of the attempt.
“One of our cameramen, Jonny, fell while trying to chase Rab along the trickiest part of the course. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, but it highlighted the difficulty of the section.
follow the light
Image credit: JB Liautard
Follow the Light is an immersive and captivating film shot in Cappadocia, Turkey and starring rider Kilian Bron and filmmaker Pierre Henri.
In just four minutes, viewers are treated to epic scenery and crazy riding that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with a bike.
“Together we look for atypical landscapes where you wouldn’t see anyone cycling and we spend a lot of time on site to scout and make the most of the place,” says Henri.
“In about ten days, we practically observed all the sunrises and sunsets in order to obtain the best light.
“The city’s Imam sings before sunrise so we didn’t even need alarms.”
Image credit: JB Liautard
One of the most memorable parts of the film is when Bron follows a light through the rock formations in the area. It’s a really fascinating film.
“We used a flare on a drone. That was the hardest part, it took us three nights and we had to experiment a lot.
Other cycling films included in the festival are The Slabs, which features Danny MacAskill tackling the Dubh Slabs, and A Dog’s Tale.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival is currently touring the UK and Ireland and films are also available to view virtually. For tickets, go here.
Feature image credit: JB Liautard