Posted by Alia Haddad on January 22, 2013 at 8:09 am
I knew I had to see The Crash Reel after it received a standing ovation on its opening night at Sundance, so when I realized there was a press screening of it during one of my available time slots, I jumped at the chance. Directed by Lucy Walker, The Crash Reel is a documentary about Kevin Pearce, the one-time favored snowboader believed to be the only person who would be able to take down his rival, Shaun White, at the Winter 2010 Olympics until he suffers a traumatic brain injury after a particularly bad snowboarding accident, just months before said Olympics.
Walker’s documentary takes the viewer on an emotional and powerful journey—it would be remiss if I left out either of those adjectives as I found myself crying almost half of the movie and am still unable to stop thinking about its everlasting impact—of Kevin’s life: not giving us glimpses, but detailed pictures of his family, life before the accident, and his God-given talent for snowboarding, one that, if left untouched, would have almost certainly garnered him the gold medal in all of his categories. But then the accident happens, The Crash Reel switches gears, telling the most heart-wrenching story of human recovery and limits. And then, if you were just starting to think that the movie focuses only on Kevin’s struggle to return to the person he once was after four months in intensive care and rehabilitation, The Crash Reel turns and starts to focus on the pressing danger of high-impact sports and these sports’ blatant unwillingness to help—whether it be with restrictions that limit how high an athlete can be in the air before coming back down or with medical bills after an accident, horrendous or not.
Every time I thought was about one thing, its multifarious layers kept surprising me. Walker really set about this documentary on the right way if it was always her ultimate goal to petition for better safety regulations on the sports-side of things, and that right way was to focus on Pearce, who endured a life-threatening accident that changed his make-up forever. Aside from just being a subject that fit the bill, Pearce was the perfect person for this role—after seeing the movie, I assume there are a lot more in Pearce’s situation than I had ever imagined—because of the person who he was and is.
This, in large part, has to do with his family, which The Crash Reel focuses a lot of time on. During these times, the viewer sees the loving, caring, and incredibly strong Pearce family. Made up of four boys, one of whom has down syndrome, and two parents, I would have been content watching this family unit for two hours plus without ever touching upon Kevin’s accident. Walker, not using my advice, interwove all these elements together to give the audience an incredibly rich and full documentary. One, that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about: whether it’s the content and message of the film, the Pearce family, Kevin’s personal strength, or the fact that it has most certainly solidified my distaste for Shaun White. After leaving this theater, tears streaming everywhere, I knew one thing was for sure: I ride (if I rode) with Kevin.