The Crash Reel review (Sheffield Doc/Fest)

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The Crash Reel green light

Dangerous sports smacks up against towering ambition in this sensationally accomplished documentary to ask a universal question: How far do you go in order to be who you were born to be?
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Kevin Pearce was an Olympic snowboarding hopeful and a favorite to make the U.S. team for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver when, at a training session just two months before the opening ceremonies, he took an ugly fall while attempting a dangerous stunt in the halfpipe and suffered a traumatic brain injury. In this sensationally accomplished emotional roller coaster of a film, Lucy Walker documents Pearce’s recovery… and takes a startling tack with it by asking: How far do you go in order to be who you were born to be? How much risk is it worth to fulfill your potential? Pearce, you see, was a daredevil from the time he was crawling and a wicked snowboarder as a youngster (the kid-size snowboard was invented specifically because he needed one as a preteen). He dazzled in competitions all over the world against older and much more experienced athletes, eventually finding himself in friendly rivalry with the sport’s superstar, Shaun White — except as soon as Pearce began to beat White, the rivalry got much more intense and pushed both of them to take more chances and do more dangerous stunts. While Walker doesn’t ignore larger issues — she zings in an indictment of extreme sports as an industry, which has trained crowds to want to see crashes — this is primarily a story about resilience in the face of disability and how a family copes with life-altering injuries to one of its own. Pearce’s family is one of the most extraordinary you’ll ever meet: he has a brother with Down Syndrome, a former Special Olympics athlete himself, who has some remarkable insight into Kevin’s new reality, and their parents are an inspirational example of nurturing children in the direction of their desires and talents, no matter how unconventional that may be. Pearce remains, in the end, a challenge to himself, to those who care about him, and to us. How high is too high a price to pay in order to live the life you don’t feel like yourself without?

viewed during the 20th Sheffield Doc/Fest

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