Q&A with Dennis Pilaske and the Banff Mountain Film Festival

Something you’ll find each spring in Midland is the local showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival put on by Chippewa Nature Center in Midland. The Festival appears in over 300 cities in 20 countries across the world and Midland has been lucky enough to host the event for the past 15 years. Extremely popular with two sellout shows this weekend, locals will find adventure and outdoor-themed documentaries, movies and shorts to fill the adrenaline void that the cold winter may have brought over the last couple of months.

We caught up with Dennis Pilaske, Executive Director of the Chippewa Nature Center to talk about why the event is so popular, what he is looking forward to seeing this year and what adventure looks like here at home.

Q: How long has BMFF been running in Midland with Chippewa Nature Center?

A: 2018 is the 15th year of CNC hosting BMFF in Midland, which we are really excited about. We’ve had sellout crowds since 2012, and starting in 2015 we’ve done a two-night event to meet the demand.

Q: What are the main features this year? How many shorts total?

A: On Friday night Into Twin Galaxies - A Greenland Epic (52 minutes) is the main feature. On Saturday night the feature is DugOut (41 minutes). Over the course of the two nights there are a total of twelve films under 10 minutes in length. I always enjoy the mix of film lengths because it provides an opportunity to see a variety of films and different story telling techniques.

Q: Is there a specific focus this year for the event? Or are there any new categories to look for?

A: We don’t have a specific theme each year, but we always look to select films that appeal to a variety of audiences. Over the last 15 years we’ve seen that kayaking and mountain biking films are always popular, as well as the longer features with lots of adrenalin and high adventure.

The 2018 BMFF in Midland once again features a broad mix of films on a variety of categories. We always look to have a mix of categories, and in recent years we’ve been pleased to host a few films that are more nature focused! This year, that film is Planet Earth II - Mountain Ibex (7 minutes).

Q: What is your favorite film this year?

A: When selecting the lineup we only get a chance to see 2-3 minute clips of the films, read reviews and get great input from the hosts from Banff. So most years, with some exceptions, we are seeing the films in their entirety for the first time right along with the audience.

I’m most excited to see the film DugOut! This is a film about two guys who travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon, live with an indigenous tribe, make a dugout canoe and then travel with the canoe. It looks to be a great mix of high adventure, cultural history and a unique storyline.

Q: This is one of CNC's biggest events each year, can you share with us what makes it special for adventure-seeking locals?

A: I love that BMFF is always held here in early April – the time of year when winter isn’t quite over, and spring hasn’t really set in and local outdoors people are really getting ready to get outdoors and have fun. I’ve heard over and over how the festival gets people pumped up to get outside and get active. At CNC, we promote building connections with nature, so we’re pleased to bring this event to town and partner with Bullock Creek Auditorium and several local sponsors to host the event.

Q: Can you share with us how BMFF relates to CNC's mission?

A: CNC’s mission is to connect all people with nature through educational, recreational and cultural experiences and BMFF provides an avenue for the community to see other ways that people enjoy the outdoors. It’s also rewarding that the tour stop in Midland provides a great opportunity for people passionate about the outdoors to come together for a fun evening of films.

Q: Along that line, can you tell us something that inspires you to seek adventure and promote conservation awareness?

A: I seek the outdoors as a way to reset my brain, be active and connect with nature. Canoeing and kayaking our local rivers is one of my favorite things to do. Those experiences inspire me to help other people make those same connections and build a love for nature, so that in the end, all users make the effort to protect these incredible green spaces.

Q: Can you catch up with the event online if you can’t make the show?

A: No, BMFF is only available at the various host sites in different cities and that is one of the reasons it has been so popular!
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