This might be the best film festival in Australia. Set in yurts and huts in the Tasmanian wild, the Cradle Mountain Film Festival is charmingly outdoorsy and passionately authentic. Isaac wants you to come along!
Let me set the scene: you duck your head under the timber door frame as you exit a hand-built canvas yurt. You’ve just spent the last 90 minutes simultaneously holding onto your seat and hat, knuckles whitened.
First, you rode from Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) to Mt Kosciuszko with Paul Pritchard and friends. Then you walked the Overland Track in winter with Steve, Francis and Tom. Finally, you ascended the Lorax route on Frenchman’s Cap with Pete and Martin, then BASE jumped back down the 1000 feet with Pete and Lee. A busy 90 minutes for even the most seasoned adventurer!
As you step out into the crisp mountain air your eyes adjust slowly to the darkened setting. You wipe a little adventure sweat from your brow. A string of fairy lights span around you, connecting seamlessly to the night sky as the stars above you erupt. The low glow of fire pierces the scene; scents of alpine vegetation, beautiful food and comforting wood fire welcome you, seep into your lungs. You’re not dreaming… you’re at the Cradle Mountain Film Festival.
Welcome To The Cradle Mountain Film Festival
Held in early autumn every year, the Cradle Mountain Film Festival is two nights and three days of action-packed adventure films, outdoor activities and great food in a pristine alpine setting.
Two and a half hours drive from Launceston airport, Cradle Mountain is a destination that needs no introduction. The 1545m peak – the 6th highest in Tasmania – rises from Lake Dove into a unique cradle shape. The surrounding area was preserved as a national park following the tireless work of Gustav and Kate Weindorfer in the mid-1900s.
Cradle Mountain Film Festival includes various events over the weekend. This year it kicked off with the Green Carpet screening of Three Tassie Features (mentioned above) on Friday night in the Forest Yurts (a yurt is like a round canvas tent with Central Asian heritage).
Mountain Culture In Full Flight
Saturday started energetically with an early morning trail run around Lake Dove and up the Cradle Valley, followed by breakfast at the Lodge; wilderness yoga; canyoning; and an introduction to the Wim Hof Method of cold-water therapy in the near-freezing rivers.
Then there were workshops and Q&As with some of the filmmakers, the One Year in Tasmania Adventure Film Competition hosted at Cradle Mountain Hotel (a shortlist of 5-minute films made in the last year featuring adventures in Tassie), the Tasmanian exclusive screening of Mountainfilm on Tour as part of the national tour, and for the VOPs (Very Outdoorsy Person): an intimate screening of Mountainfilm on Tour with drinks and food in the Forest Yurts.
Finally, Sunday involved the free Mountain Huts Film Tour, which included access to some usually private huts for a series of short films. It sounds busy on paper, but you had the full choice over the weekend to attend any (or all) of the events.
My Experience Of The Cradle Mountain Film Festival
My itinerary included a late Friday afternoon departure from Launceston, loaded up with some supplies for Anna and Antho, the owners of Cradle Mountain Canyons, who run the event.
You know it’s a Tasmanian festival when you know the organisers through a mutual friend. I drove up to Cradle, with the alpine vegetation glowing in the afternoon light, finding it hard not to stop for photos.
I arrived just before dusk to find yurts up, fairy lights on and fires glowing. I mingled and ate some tasty food, then watched the Three Tassie Features. I was speechless after those three utterly contrasting films.
Later, around the campfires, I had the privilege of meeting Pete Wyllie – the main man from The Lorax Project (my favourite film over the weekend) and Jared Irwin who was part of the production team.
If you watch the trailer and aren’t on the edge of your seat I’d be surprised, but I must say no more – watch it for yourself! Anyway, after an evening with them I turned in for the night. A great start to the weekend.
Saturday provided me an opportunity to sneak into the hills with Jared and his two mates. We tackled a picturesque circuit taking in Marion’s Lookout, Kitchen Hut and Hanson’s Peak, providing various angles of the magnificent Cradle Mountain at a special time of year – the turning of the fagus.
Deciduous Beech (Nothofagus gunnii) is Australia’s only cold-climate winter deciduous tree, and endemic to Tasmania. Autumn sees it turn from green, to a vibrant orange. Truly incredible.
Our walk concluded in time for the Q&A with The Lorax Project filmmakers – luckily because Jared had questions to answer! It provided a wonderful opportunity for the audience to appreciate just what goes into producing an adventure film of that length with a limited budget and filming in remote locations.
Saturday evening then rolled into a series of short Tasmanian films entered in the One Year in Tasmania Adventure Film competition.
First prize for Best Adventure Film went to a husband and wife duo who completed Federation Peak in a day (for those unaware, that is an eight day/47km walk in 17 hours with no sleep – truly adventurous) and third prize to the same family for their film Optimystic, where they rafted the Upper Huon River with their young children (yet again incredible).
Mountainfilm On Tour
The Tassie films rolled into Mountainfilm on Tour, all the way from Telluride, Colorado, screening a series of adventure films from across the globe including the hilarious La Langosta, and the more serious (but still humorous) Guilt Trip about climate change impacts in Greenland’s icesheets. Meanwhile, a select group enjoyed the Very Outdoorsy Person experience in the yurts with paella cooked outdoors, Ghost Rock wines and cheese platters – yum!
The evening culminated with Halfway to Forth jamming out some tunes in the yurts – including a very funky cover of Feel Good Inc. by the Gorillaz. Keeping with the Tasmanian theme, these two brothers were the yurt guys – good friends to have!
As the band finished we turned to some relaxing beers and outdoors chat under the crystal-clear night sky, before crawling into our tents.
Hut To Hut Hiking Is The Best Way To Experience Short Films
Sunday morning I headed for the Mountain Huts Film Trail and was greeted with happy faces as people hit some of the less-wandered tracks of Cradle Mountain, exploring huts that are usually closed to the public.
Short films were screened off-grid in the huts on Pico projectors, and the total walk distance made it a momentous day out. I pitched in to help with the final event, before taking some time out after all the films had finished to be alone in the environment and reflect on my thoughts. Cradle Mountain is a special place to my family and I, sitting very close to our hearts.
I walked away from the Cradle Mountain Film Festival truly buzzing, having been inspired by the incredible films and the awesome people who I met over the weekend. This small, intimate festival gives you unprecedented access to filmmakers, organisers, and adventurers from Tassie and beyond.
We discussed topics such as cable car proposals, logging in Tassie forests, beta for adventures and how Tasmania can manage a tourism surge which fails to #keeptassiewild (get involved). If you can get yourself down for next year’s event, I highly encourage it!
When’s The Next One?
I drove to Cradle Mountain that weekend expecting a film festival, and left having discovered so much more. The planning for next year’s event is already underway, so save the date: March 29-31.
To leave you with a few tips for when you come: pack warm, bring your camera, be open to anything, and be prepared for an unforgettable weekend!
Plan your Tasmanian Tour