What it is. How it got started. And why you'd be mad to miss it...
The Adventure Travel Film Festival is back, bigger and better than ever. Organiser (and adventurer) Lois Pryce talks to Peter Moore about how the festival got started and what makes it the most exciting event of the adventure film calendar.
What is the Adventure Travel Film Festival?
It's the only festival in the world that celebrates truly independent adventure travel and film-making. It champions the incredible, the obscure and sometimes, the wonderfully weird, and encourages regular folk to get out there and have their own adventures – and to film them.
What sets the Adventure Travel Film Festival apart from other film festivals?
The biggest difference is that it's a camping weekend that takes place in one location, so unlike most film festivals which are usually spread out over different cinemas across a city, the Adventure Travel Film Festival has the atmosphere of a music festival – but you can watch amazing films indoors if it rains! We also specialise in digging out great vintage travel films from the 30s to the 70s, many of which have never previously been shown in the UK.
When was the festival first held?
It started in 2010 when we held the first one as part of the Overland Expo in Arizona (America's biggest festival for adventure travellers). It was a great success and the first British festival was held last year.
Where did the idea come from?
Austin is a film-maker who has made TV shows and documentaries about his travels, and I am a travel writer who has written books about my adventures, so we tend to get a lot of interesting films and books sent to us (we're married by the way!). So these random DVDs would appear in our post box from complete strangers all over the world – the production values were fantastic, the adventures themselves were jaw-dropping but the people that made them were completely unknown. This was the impetus for the festival – we realised we were sitting on this amazing collection of films and that they deserved to be shared with a wider audience.
Who is it aimed at?
It is basically aimed at anyone with the slightest tingling of wanderlust in their bones! It attracts all sorts of people from armchair travellers and families in camper vans right through to the most hardcore adventurer. The lovely thing is that everyone mingles together and there's a fantastic sense of camaraderie.
What can attendees expect?
A hand-picked selection of mind-blowing travel films that you will never see anywhere else. They take in every sort of transport and every continent – from canoeing the Congo River to trekking the Antarctic to motorcycling across Siberia. We have some fantastic speakers this year including cult travel hero Alastair Humphreys, the 'natural navigator' Tristan Gooley, Jof Summerfield who rode a penny farthing round the world (yes, really!) and underwater adventure cameraman, Andy Torbet.
There is also the legendary Roadkill Cookout (beware vegetarians!), bushcraft skills, foraging walks and live music, courtesy of all-girl bluegrass band, The Jolenes. And if the weather's good we show the late night films outside on a giant screen – it's a wonderful experience!
We also have the marvelous Vintage Cinema Bus gracing the festival with its presence and showing a series of classic BFI documentaries. It truly is a thing of beauty if you have not seen it – a 1960s coach kitted out as a cinema that used to go around showing safety films to workers in factories!
Is it just watching films or can attendees get 'hands-on' advice and tips?
It's very much hands-on! We have a series of film-making workshops taught by industry professionals covering camera work, directing, shooting interviews, sound, editing, narrative, choice of cameras and even shooting on Super 8! The DIY ethos is very close to our heart at the festival and we encourage everyone to have a go.
What have been your favourite films over the years?
My favourite from last year was an obscure, super cool 1970s film called Cycles South in which three crazy American dudes hit the road on classic British bikes, riding from Denver to Panama. It's a kind of wilder version of Easy Rider with the grooviness of On Any Sunday. It even has a nude, stoned, dirt-biking dream sequence! Also, Yenisey River was mind-blowing – a bunch of guys paddle the Yenisey from source to sea through Mongolia and Russia – ultra hardcore and truly humbling! We were also delighted to be able to show John T Davis' beautiful train-hopping classic, Hobo.
What are you looking forward to this year?
This year I'm very excited about Mazungu, Phil Harwood's solo canoe trip down the Congo and also the gorgeous Above and Beyond Dream – a Canadian guy who para-glides across Canada, visiting schools along the way – all the kids make shapes and messages on the ground and the view from the air is phenomenal – it'll bring a lump to your throat!
I'm also really looking forward to our speakers – I think there's going to be some pretty inspiring stuff going on. And of course I'm looking forward to sitting round the campfire into the small hours...
The festival is now held in the US and Australia as well. Have you noticed any differences between the festivals in each country?
We tailor the choice of films slightly so we show more American-made films in the US, and promote Aussie ones in Australia. But on the whole the atmospheres are very similar – wherever it's held, the festival seems to attract the same kind of crowd – fun, friendly, cultured and adventurous. Our audiences are the best! And after the last UK festival there wasn't a single piece of litter left on the site. What more could we ask for?!
Any plans for further expansion?
Well, running the festival is quite a big job for just the two of us but in theory we could see it working in all English-speaking countries, so maybe Canada and South Africa one day... Until then, we'll just have to party on here for now!
Want a taster of what to expect? Here are the trailers for two of the films on show at the 2012 Adventure Film Festival.
The 2012 Adventure Film Festival takes place from Friday 17th August–Monday 20th August 2012 at Sherborne Girls School, Bradford Road, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3QN. Tickets via the website only. A fab free 36 page brochure is sent to anyone who asks for one!
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