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  Forgotten Polish film takes Grand Prize

A film made 35 years ago at a Polish film school has taken the Grand Prize at this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival. Odworot (Retreat) recreates an anonymous climber's epic solo descent in the wake of a mountaineering accident. Produced in 1967 by director Jerzy Surdel at the Ludz Film School in Poland, and filmed in black and white in the Tatra Mountains, Odworot follows the climber's desperate retreat to find help for his injured partner. "Impeccable directing and editing create a film of poetic ambiguity," says film festival jury member Liam Lacey. Fellow jury member Mike Libecki describes Odworot as "timeless and irreproducible."

The sole copy of Odworot was rescued from obscurity by Seattle architect Alex Bertulis. Over the past year and a half, he spent $10,000 to restore the film. "This film deserves to be recognized as a classic, and as an inspiration to young filmmakers of what can be accomplished when you have a powerful story, even on a limited budget," says Bertulis. "The Grand Prize award is co-sponsored by Mountain Equipment Co-op and Suunto.

This festival's 2004 award for Best Film on Mountain Sports goes to a film that celebrates the sheer bliss of powder skiing. Sinners (Canada), directed and produced by Bill Heath, extols the exquisite beauty of deep snow. "This is a film of flowing grace that captures the essence of deep powder," says Libecki. The mountain sports award is sponsored by Big Rock Brewery.

Alone across Australia (Australia), which tells the story of Jon Muir's 2500-kilometre unsupported trek across Australia, takes the 2004 award for Best Film on Mountain Environment, sponsored by Gore. "This film is very real, very powerful, very raw, and absolutely original," says Libecki. Directed by Muir and Ian Darling, the film follows Muir and his dog, Seraphine, on an arduous 128-day journey across the continent. Alone across Australia also wins the People's Choice Award, voted on by the festival audience and sponsored by Ortovox.

The Alpine Club of Canada award for Best Film on Climbing goes to Daughters of Everest (USA), directed and produced by Sapana Sakya and Ramyata Limbu. The film tells the story of the first-ever expedition of Sherpa women to climb Everest. "A delightful and very honest film that captures the camaraderie of a group of women who take pride in their mountains," says jury member Florian Camerer.

The Story of the Weeping Camel (Germany) takes this year's award for Best Feature-length Mountain Film, sponsored by MSR. Directors Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni follow the adventures of a family of camel herders in the Gobi Desert who face a crisis when a mother camel rejects her newborn. "This film depicts a disappearing way of life, capturing it in a charming story," says Liam Lacey.

The award for Best Short Mountain Film goes to Hike Hike Hike (USA). Directed and produced by Anouk Iyer, this four-minute animated film on dog-sledging "manages to say a lot with a little," says Lacey. The award is sponsored by Mountain Equipment Co-op.

The Reindeer People (France), directed by Hamid Sardar, takes the 2004 award for Best Film on Mountain Culture, sponsored by Petzl. The film is an intimate portrait of a family of Dukha reindeer nomads as they follow a migration route through the forests of northern Mongolia. "This film takes us inside a vanishing way of life," says Camerer.

The jury also awarded a Special Jury Award in the Mountain Sports Category to Soul Purpose (USA) directed and produced by Todd Jones, Dirk Collins, Steve Jones, and Corey Gavitt.

The inaugural Banff Centre Audio Post-Production Award goes to the producers and directors of Dolpo - Children of the Mountains (France). This award provides up to $10,000 in audio post-production resources at the Banff Centre's state-of-the-art recording facilities for a future film production.

The 2004 Banff Mountain Film Festival jury included film critic Liam Lacey (Canada), climber and adventurer Mike Libecki (U.S.A.), film sound engineer Florian Camerer (Austria), mountaineer and journalist Rebecca Stephens (U.K.), and adventure film festival manager Cléo Poussier (France).The festival screened 57 finalist films, chosen from more than 330 entries from 46 countries.

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