The first couple of times you go to a festival like ShAFF there's a tendency to try and pack as much as physically possible into every minute, barely pausing for breath in a non stop round of films and talks and ending Sunday night as exhausted as the people you've been watching on screen. The constant assault on your senses then blurs the finer details of the films you've seen and they merge into each other. But it doesn't have to be like this - of all the big annual festivals ShAFF is far more than just the films and with a little pre-planning you can take the most out of the weekend without it taking everything out of you.
There are two keys to surving a film festival, prioritising your time and knowing your venue. You have to accept from the beginning that you can't be in 7 screens simultaneously so you can't see everything, and once you've accepted that then you've already accepted that you're going to have to pick and choose. Knowing your venue means not only do you know how to get from A to B when you need to rush to a screening but also means you can plan the essential breaks that stop films blurring into each other and take essential food and drink on board. Being in a city centre the options extend beyond the in house bar, restaurant and cafe with everything from a Greggs to restaurants available within a few minutes walk; strange as it may seem the city centre can make a great escape after a couple of hours of sensory overload and set you up for another session or two.
To prioritise your time you really need to get to grips with how ShAFF works, with films available is Sessions which can contain anything from a single, long, film with follow-up Q&A to a medley of multiple adrenaline infused shorts. With the big premiers and exclusive lectures the chances are that you'll only get a single shot at seeing them over the weekend so mark those on your calendar first and plan the rest of your weekend around them, but don't assume all the big films are just one offs - Meru, for example is only being shown on the Sunday morning whereas Sherpa gets screenings on both Saturday and Sunday. If you want to check whether there are repeat screenings of a particular film the easy way to find out is to consult the Films A to Z where every screening of every film is listed with times, dates and details of the session name (e.g. Mountain Films 2).
More than just films
With your priority sessions in place you can plan the rest of your weekend around them, either taking in additional sessions or visiting the Workstation next door where you'll find both the ShAFF Lowepro Adventure Photo Exhibition, which includes some of the UK's top photographers, and the Rab Sponsored Ben Winston Exhibition.
The ShAFF Kit Sale, in the Workstation Mezzanine, has grown to become possibly the biggest 2nd hand kit sale in the country. If you have a wardrobe full of kit you no longer use just bring it along on the day and the team of volunteers will tag, hang, and sell it for you while you enjoy the festival . If all that's not enough there's the ShAFF Fringe, with a series of talks, discussions and presentations ranging from the BMC Climate Panel to the highly anticipated "How not to climb" from Paul Diffley and Hot Achyes.
If ShAFF is famous for one thing, however, it's for being "the friendly festival", where 100% of visitors have said, year after year, they'll be back. It's no coincidence that ShAFF is the festival that film makers choose to attend in person and equally it's no coincidence that year upon year the musicians who bring so much to the evening entertainment go on to record deals and TV appearances. The vibe around ShAFF is special and it's been nurtured over almost a decade with something for everyone of every age. It's a place where you can be sat eating alongside icons of the outdoor world, chatting like long term friends or sharing a drink while discussing the technical merits (or not) of DSLRs in film making with an award winning producer from half way around the world. Kids can get their kicks with the YHA run adventure activities or take in the Young Adventurer's sessions.
Our ShAFF 2016 tips:
So what would we recommend for viewing this year? Well with so many disciplines and so many films it's a difficult choice but there's a few stand out productions we just couldn't miss. It's a very personal selection but makes a good mix with guaranteed quality throughout.
The Oscar nominated Sherpa gripping account of changing attitudes among Sherpa climbers on the world’s highest peak in the wake of the 2014 disaster. Local mountaineer, journalist, author and Everest expert Ed Douglas, who was a consultant and the films narrator, will be at the Sunday screening to say a few words about the film and answer questions.
In the high-stakes game of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru may be the ultimate prize. Sitting at the headwaters of the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the Shark’s Fin has seen more failed attempts by elite climbing teams over the past 30 years than any other ascent in the Himalayas. A stunning film, with a world class cast including Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, which examines the issues of risk, frienship and perseverance.
Hardcore UK alpinists Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey attempt to climb the stunning NW ridge of the remote peak 'The Citadel' deep in the Neacola range, Alaska. The world's first mountain film shot entirely in 4k, a stunning visual treat reveals alpine climbing like never before.
It was a ridiculous idea from the start. Travel to the high arctic in pursuit of a single image a skier silhouetted against a solar eclipse. Lasting only two and a half minutes, the odds of having clear skies during the eclipse were low. Despite the odds being stacked against them, the Salomon Freeski TV team set out on a three week expedition to Svalbard, Norway encountering polar bears, abandoned Russian towns and even climate change. Persistence, preparation and a positive attitude guaranteed nothing as March 20, 2015, dawned.
Operation Moffat takes inspiration and wit from the colourful climbing life of Britain's first female mountain guide, Gwen Moffat. Grappling with her preference for mountains over people, adventure over security, wilderness over tick lists, writer Claire Carter and filmmaker Jen Randall climb, run, scramble and swim their way through some of Gwen's most cherished British landscapes. Including candid interviews with 91 year old Gwen, a fresh take on landscape photography, previously unseen archive materials and unashamedly real action sequences, the film captures Gwen's infectious excitement for a life constantly seeking something strange or beautiful around the next bend.
Reach For the Sky
Freeride mountain biking is synonymous with danger, reward, adrenaline, and pushing the known boundaries of the sport. Cam Zink has won the sport’s most coveted titles, the Red Bull Rampage, Crankworx Slopestyle, and the Freeride World Tour, yet those accolades have not come without a physical price. The film explores the fascinating life story of one of the sport’s most popular athletes, the physical punishment, fame, and self-doubt, to uncover why Zink perseveres through the adversity—even when no one is watching.
Tom lives with his father James on a campsite in the Dolomites, living off James’ small pension. Even though his mother, the great British alpinist Alison Hargreaves, died descending K2 when he was just six years old, Tom always wanted to be a climber. His whole life is dedicated to the mountains and his last goal is to climb solo the Six North Faces of the Alps in a single winter season. Nobody’s ever done it, and he wants to be the first.
UnREAL takes you to a place beyond the real world. Forget the 9 to 5 desk job, sit back and watch the world’s best mountain bikers ride with horses; witness Tom Van Steenbergen make the biggest front flip in MTB history; not to mention riding snow and ice; hitting record speeds on downhill drift tracks and a dramatic night shoot.
Three of the world’s most renowned BASE jumpers, Jokke Sommer, Espen Fadnes and Ludovic Woerth embark on an adventure around the world seeking out unique and challenging locations for wingsuit proximity flying and BASE jumping. Follow Jokke, Espen and Ludo on an exceptional journey via Rio de Janeiro, Chamonix, Reunion Island, the Tianmen Mountains in China, Bangkok to their final jump in Dubai. All three athletes speak candidly about the morality of risking their lives and the emotions and rewards that push them to pioneer this sport.