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Bring the mountain to the movies

March 21, 2006|By Dave Brooks

And you thought you had a rough commute.

It takes activist Cynthia Hunt four days to get to her job in the oxygen-starved village of Ladakh, Kashmir. Said to be one of the highest and driest inhabited places on earth, it's also one of the most inaccessible.

To reach the village, Hunt must traverse the Chador, an ancient route that runs along the frozen Zanskar River and through gorges said to be deeper than the Grand Canyon.

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Over 170,000 people are expected to take the journey with Hunt this year, although only she and a film crew working with director Pat Morrow will blaze any trails. The rest can comfortably watch from their seats during the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival, a cinematic expedition stopping at Orange Coast College tonight on a voyage that includes 250 destinations worldwide. The three-hour program of short films features selections from the 30th Banff festival, held last fall in Alberta, Canada.

In "Magic Mountain," filmmaker Morrow follows Hunt as she hikes to remote villages to work with women and help them form cooperatives. One group of the women is inspired to make a difficult four-day journey out of Ladakh to petition the Indian government for money to build environmentally friendly housing.

Whether it's the eccentricities of mountain communities or the intensity of action sports movies about rock-climbing and skiing, there's just something about mountains that's conducive to bold cinematography.

"A lot of people who make these movies also share the passion for mountain places," tour organizer Seana Strain said. "Mountains challenge us, and they're such an interesting environment to engage."

Most of the selections focus on the extreme conditions inherent in living or playing on a mountain.

In addition to "Magic Mountain," the festival screens several short films on outdoor sports. OCC organizes its own showing of the Banff films with a tilt toward cultural cinematography, librarian and local organizer Carl Morgan said.

But the selections also appeal to traditional movie buffs.

"I tend to think the Banff Mountain Film Festival is really for a broad audience," Morgan said. "Even people who don't consider themselves outdoor enthusiasts can really enjoy the festival. It's like a trip around the world in two hours."

Here are other the other films that are part of this year's festival:

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