Judging at KMF 2012- Enjoyable or tortuous...?

21st Nov 2012

Opening event Viewers

When you get asked to judge for a film festival, for me there’s a mixture of excitement and dread. You are committing to watch a lot of films and in Kendal’s case, all in four days!

That first morning as the first film starts, I get an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Basically, you just have to sit there and watch film after film, after film. As somebody who finds it hard to sit about for long periods, this prospect is daunting. But as the films progress, I realise there is something liberating about being ‘allowed’ to just sit there.

I absolutely love the judging process and having judged five adventure film festivals, have also watched a massive amount of films. It’s given me a well-rounded knowledge of these films and what I’ve realised from day one actually, is that the quality always rises to the top. You may argue between one, two or occasionally three films but there is generally a consensus between the judges.

This year I was joined by assistant-editor on Climber magazine Ian Smith. And mountaineer, author and specialist rope-cutter Simon Yates. We had nine categories to present awards for and sixty-six films to choose from, not an easy task.

But we put in some long hours, a couple of fourteen hour days that gave ourselves time at the end to fully discuss our choices.

When it came down to choosing the winners, we certainly had discussions but nothing ever got too heated. And at the end of the day, it may have come down to two contenders in a category and you’d be happy to see either of them take the trophy. So if one of the other judges had very strong feelings about a film, you would be happy to let that one win it.

Funnily enough, I think the Grand Prize was the easiest one for us all to choose. We watched it near the end of our four day stint when we were weary and bleary eyed and the thought of watching another sixty minute film was not ideal. But there was no getting out of it, so ‘play’ was pressed and within moments we were all hooked. The sign of a truly great film, it can be watched anywhere and lift any mood you are in. By the end of ‘Crossing the Ice’, I think we were all big fans of Cas and Jonesey and the decision was made. I had judged their first film ‘Crossing the Ditch’ at Shaff 2011 and loved that too but it didn’t win an award though. It’s funny how it goes, especially as ‘Crossing the Ditch’ won the Grand Prize at last years Kendal! So the boys have done well and I have since found out, they won a handful of prizes at Banff too.

Unbelievably, I didn’t step foot out of the hotel from Sunday night to Thursday afternoon, totally unheard of for me. I was starting to feel a bit woosy and depleted of outside energy by the end of it.

What I had been missing, this was my walk down to the Brewery Arts Centre.

The only thing that kept me going was the pool and gym in the hotel. I tried to grab moments to get rid of some energy and managed to get a few swims done and some weights sessions. This was actually really great and has renewed my feeling for training as I was forgetting how much I love to do this stuff. Also, my shoulder felt great swimming, so that is something I’ll have to do more of. But I also discovered that it has some serious weaknesses, shoulder-press being the worst. I could barely push the machine without weight. It’s quite strange, as with some exercises, my operated shoulder doesn’t feel much weaker than my right but then doing something like this just reminds me quite how weakened it has become and not to go too crazy with everything. It’s all good though and was fun to be able to exert myself in between marathon film watching sessions.

Then came the weekend of the festival proper and as always it was a weekend of socialising and well lets face it, drinking. Friday started with the ‘Marmot’ night (see left!) and Robert Jasper had come over to talk about his exploits, mainly his love affair with the Eiger, a very accomplished and understated guy!

But I was also determined to see MORE speakers this year, as I don’t usually organise myself well enough. So this year, I spent Saturday holed up in lecture theatres it was great and inspiring. I saw Josh Dueck (sit skier) and Mike Douglas (film maker) first and they did an incredible job. Then I saw Liv Sansoz, who seems to have done so much since leaving comp climbing including getting into base jumping and trying to jump off the Trango Tower with Tim Emmett! Then I saw Karen Darke, who was just incredible. She’s got a lovely way about her and she’s very funny and just puts across all her exploits in a matter of fact way but you can feel the determination that is driving her on- she seems like a true adventurer. Then lastly I saw Ines Papert, who is probably one of the most driven climbers I’ve ever seen speak. She’s just done so much gnarly and hard stuff over the years that it’s quite astonishing and all of it whilst being a single Mum- pretty rad and humbling.

Anyway, it’s all over for another year, so if you didn’t make it this year, put KMF in your diary for next November.

This is a shot of a  brilliant 'short' called 'The Shapeshifter'. This was shown at the opening of the festival on Thursday night to the people of Kendal. You can see on the left, another film called 'Blue Obsession' being shown on the outdoor screen.