Though Canada’s relations with China at the moment are not the best due to Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou’s arrest on US fraud charges in Vancouver last December, the Chinese still look up to Canadians for one thing — outdoor sports. Banff Mountain Film Festival China Tour has been inspiring a large number of people in China for almost a decade.
When Tina Qian Haiying, an outdoor sports enthusiast, attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada in 2009, she thought China needed such films to popularise outdoor sports. Next year she introduced the festival to China as Banff Mountain Film Festival China Tour. China is now among the 50 countries with a local chapter of the Banff festival. Banff China oragnises film exhibitions in several cities, including stand-alone exhibitions on various adventure sports. It also hosts seminars, lectures and training programs. Qian had quit her job of a marketing executive in IBM to devot herself to Banff China.
“When I was fresh in outdoor sports, China had not taken up that craze, and I often learned about outdoor sport ideas and skills from foreign countries,” Qian told China Daily last year. An annual presentation of short films and documentaries about mountain culture, sports and environment, Banff China has become a popular gathering of outdoors enthusiasts, including sports fans, adventurers, photographers, filmmakers and environmentalists, according to the Daily.
Banff China has also produced several its own films one of which, ‘Searching for Christmas Tree’, was nominated for the Banff Mountain Film Competition. The documentary film shows Chinese ice-climbing team’s discovery of a frozen waterfall shaped like a Christmas tree.
When Qian established Banff China a decade ago, outdoor sports such as skydiving, slacklining and white-water kayaking were minority pursuits in China. “Once we showed a film on longboarding. People only knew about skateboarding then. After the film screened, one of our sports equipment sponsors thanked me for boosting their sales of longboards. After we screened films on slacklining and invited slacklining masters to perform in our carnivals, the sport’s popularity in China grew,” she told SCMP.
Traditinally, adventure sports had little attraction in China. But with growing prosperity and global exposure, the Chinese are taking up adventure sports. “In places like the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand which have had strong economies for a long time, children do things like biking with their parents in the wild when they are young and start climbing mountains when they are older. That’s how they spend their weekends,” Qian told SCMP.
“In China, outdoor areas represent hardships which should be avoided. It’s only after the Chinese started getting more affluent over the past two decades that they started talking about going back to nature to challenge themselves. Doing outdoor sports is not only about nurturing a healthy lifestyle, it is also a luxurious spiritual pursuit.”
Banff China has carved out a target audience for itself as interest in outdoor sports grows. Now it remains active round the year. Apart from Banff Mountain Film Festival China Tour, it also hosts Ocean Film Festival, China Snow Film Festival and China Outdoor Film Festival.