Festival fosters a strong sense of community

Published: Tue 9 Jul 2019 09:44 AM
The 17th annual Mountain Film and Book Festival has come to a close following a successful ten days. The festival had many sell-out shows and received an incredibly positive response to the films, speakers and community initiatives. The world-class quality of the films, the international speakers and the tales of extraordinary expeditions once again thrilled festival-goers. The audience was comprised of locals as well as loyal fans from around the country; the festival gathers likeminded people to create a strong sense of community. Attendance increased on previous years across Wanaka, Cromwell and Queenstown and the audience response to the award-winning films was positive.
The winner of the Grand Prize was Spectre Expedition – To the End of the Earth from directors Alastair Lee and past festival speaker Leo Houlding. In the film Leo Houlding (UK) Mark Sedon (NZ) and Jean Burgun (France) undertake a journey of epic proportions. The trio snow-kite 2,000km across Antarctica, unsupported, to reach the summit of the most remote mountain on Earth: The Spectre.
A special Jury was formed to decide the winner and the decision was unanimous. Judge and filmmaker Tim Pierce said, “the story and sheer insanity of the expedition, connection with the talent, balance of humour and drama was stand out. The cinematography, edit and colour grading were exceptional. An amazing feat! All the finalist films were such inspiring stories of what the human body and mind can achieve, along with the beauty of our amazing planet.”
Both Houlding and Sedon have been keynote speakers in the festival in the past and are well known to festival fans. Houlding has also appeared in many of the films throughout the years; he is a well-known character in the world of adventure and expedition filmmaking. Leo says, “The truth is, it was the hardest trip I’ve ever done. It was the longest trip I’ve ever done. It was the coldest trip I’ve ever done.” The judges also acknowledged the uniqueness and creativity of the expedition, and praised the balance of humour and drama woven amongst the enormity of the undertaking.
The People’s Choice award went to Ascending Afghanistan: Women Rising from director Erik Osterholm from Afghanistan. The film was an NZ Premiere and it took a look at the plight of women in Afghanistan and their terrible treatment under the Taliban dictatorship. A diverse group of women formed a climbing team and were trained in an attempt to summit one of the regions highest peaks. The climbing experience became a catalyst for change for many of the women. The sense of accomplishment, and achieving goals that at the outset looked impossible, charged the women with energy and enthusiasm for a new future. This story was eye-opening, at times challenging, and gave a raw insight into a society with little freedom for women.
Iconic rock climber Lynn Hill (USA) presented at the festival; tickets to her show were sought after. Festival Director, Mark Sedon says, “Tickets to Lynn’s show sold incredibly quickly. She is an absolute legend with fans that span decades. While she was here she went climbing and she also invited the community to an open session at the local indoor wall. Her continued love of climbing shines through and she is an inspiring lady who is a warm and generous. It was an absolute honour to host Lynn at the festival; it has been one of the highlights in our 17 years of running the event.” Lynn spoke to sold-out shows in Wanaka and Queenstown.
The Charitable Trust takes a deliberate approach to reducing the event’s impact on the environment. The audience supported the intention to minimise waste and the end result was only one and a half bags of rubbish at the end of 6 days. 4,000 festivalgoers got behind this ethos to reduce use, compost whenever possible and think carefully about unnecessary plastic bottles, disposable coffee cups and printed tickets. The Charitable Trust’s focus on impact aims to not only reduce waste during the event, but to use the event as an opportunity to highlight how good practice and a mindful approach can make a difference.
The silent auction in Wanaka raised over $5,200 for the NZ Mountain Film Festival Charitable Trust’s grant scheme. Sponsors and local businesses donated items for the auction, which included ski area passes, heli-skiing, Wild Wire, massages, tree-trimming services and other outdoor products. The Grant Scheme supports:
• Youth (18 years and under) in adventure film-making courses and/or adventure skills training
• Environmental projects such as river clean-ups and native tree re-planting
• People with disabilities by providing grants to buy specialist sporting equipment
Grant applications are open until August 30 online at
The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival now launches a National Tour. A selection of films tours the country and is hosted by local venues, clubs and community groups that support adventure films.
About the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival
The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival 2019 event ran in Wanaka from June 28 to July 3, and in Queenstown July 4 to 6 and Cromwell July 7. The 10-day event was a celebration of adventurous sports and lifestyles presented for adventurers, film and book enthusiasts and armchair adventurers.
The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival is a member of the International Alliance for Adventure Film, hosting international and NZ speakers, a world-class line-up of films, and a broad range of literary events, all celebrating adventurous sports and lifestyles.
The festival holds an international adventure filmmaking competition that receives submissions from filmmakers from all corners of the globe. The finalists make up the festival programme screened in Lake Wanaka Centre and Queenstown Events Centre. The standard is exceptionally high and the event sits on the world stage alongside other well-known events.
The Mountain Book competition champions the theme of ‘adventure sports and lifestyles’. Written work is submitted in a range of categories to win prize money and compete for the Grand Prize. The Mountain Book event also features author readings, old-fashioned storytelling, writing workshops and children’s events.
From off-the-cuff storytelling to highly crafted film-making and written works, all events celebrate the love of adventure and the outdoors, the environment and foreign cultures. The festival line-up includes world-famous speakers, a packed programme of adventure, cultural and environmental films, informal storytelling, workshops, author readings, an adventure trade show and a free youth programme.
The festival programme is available online each year and tickets can be purchased at

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