Words: Roxy MacNaughton
Runners on razor-edged ridges. Kite surfers back-flipping off breakers. Soaring vultures and paragliders. This is the annual Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge, where adventure stories and wildlife interactions intertwine and local adventure films make their big-screen appearance during the internationally acclaimed Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.
The Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge, which is now in its second year, invites amateur and professional filmmakers to submit five-minute films under the theme of 'South African outdoor culture and lifestyle'. The winning entrant is awarded a cash prize of R10,000 as well as R2,000 in K-Way gear.
An even bigger submission incentive is that the winning film is included in the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour screenings countrywide. Banff is the most respected adventure film festival in the word and it showcases the creativity and talents of the finest mountain, travel, expedition and adventure-sport filmmakers.
Cape Union Mart has proudly hosted the South African leg of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour for eight years. This World Tour showcases a selection of the best short films and documentaries about mountain culture, sports, and the environment chosen from thousands of submissions from around the World. Last year, 22 Banff screenings were enjoyed by sell-out South African audiences at Ster-Kinekor cinemas in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.
"With cameras and editing software even available on smartphones, filmmaking has become so accessible. It's no longer the domain of professionals," says Nick Bennett. "We welcome professional filmmakers to enter, but we would encourage all aspiring filmmakers to also share their work with us.
He adds that judges of the Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge are looking for more than the extreme adventures and death-defying stunts that are popular in Banff films.
"It's all about the story for us," Bennett says. "That's more important than technique, special effects or the type of equipment used to make the film. We're looking for films about people, their personalities, the places they visit and their activities and experiences... these capture the essence of the outdoor and adventure lifestyle that is so quintessentially South African."
Last year the film "Vultures Chose Me" won the Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge for its strong narrative and creative incorporation of paragliding to tell of the work by the Vulture Conservation Project (VulPro). Filmed and directed by Michael Raimondo, the short film shows VulPro Founder and Manager Kerri Wolter paragliding, in tandem, with a circling venue of Cape Vultures. Watch the winning film here.
"The film was initially made for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) feature on conservation projects," Wolter says.
"Having our movie featured during the Banff World Tour screenings meant that the work we do reached a much wider audience and that perhaps vultures will be better understood and appreciated by the people who saw the film. We've received very positive feedback."
Raimondo specialises in producing inspiring environmental films. He works closely with NGOs like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create films that expose wildlife and conservation issues with the aim to get people to change the way they think about the environment.
The film about VulPro was made as one of a series of stories about conservation and sustainability. Raimondo learned of the organisation and recruited a paragliding friend to take Wolter up on a paraglider to fly with these shy birds.
"We only had one opportunity to fly with the vultures. It was incredibly challenging to be at the right place at the right time," explains Raimondo. "We were lucky. The wind was perfect and there were around 800 vultures out there."
Raimondo says that making a short film is hard; it can be challenging to get the right shots to tell the story with limited time and budget. For this project they didn't script the story beforehand. Instead, they had to see what footage they were able to get and created a story around this.
When advising filmmakers Raimondo adds: "Don't write a script. The story is key so go and find something interesting. It doesn't matter what fancy equipment you have, the most important thing is to find an authentic engaging character. Try and capture someone doing something for the first time. Stories are everywhere. Especially in South Africa we are spoilt for choice".
Entries for the 2014 Cape Union Mart Adventure Film Challenge close on 30 June 2014. For more information and to submit entries, please visit www.banff.co.za.