they are smart, organized snowboarding and other extreme sports will get
proactive about preventing serious brain trauma, like that suffered by Olympic
prospect Kevin Pearce. Or they can just bury their heads in the sand like the
NFL. Anyone care to lay odds on which course they take? Perhaps Oscar nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker
will shift the needle a bit with her HBO produced documentary profile of
Pearce, The Crash Reel (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
was sort of the Zenned-Out Natural, who generated jaw-dropping amplitude on his
runs. His friend-turned-rival Shaun
White is depicted as the Ice-Man of snowboarding, who never made a mistake, but
lacked Pearce’s indefinable X-factor.
While White was a driven lone wolf (or so he appears), Pearce led a
free-spirited group of competitive snowboarders known as the “Frends,” because there
is no “i” in there. Then during a
fateful training run in Park City (a town which holds continuing significance
throughout the film), Pearce took a fall that is truly sickening to watch.
this changes everything. It is a slow
process, but Pearce begins to the recover physically and mentally. However, several individuals tangentially
related to Pearce are not so fortunate.
In fact, their sad intersecting stories provide some of Reel’s most poignant moments. Yet, despite
these tragic examples and the objections of his family, Pearce remains
determined to make his competitive return.
is a talented filmmaker, who really should have taken home the Oscar for The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. She skillfully broadens the Reel’s focus, without turning it into an
outright advocacy PSA. Walker and her
team also culled through a remarkable wealth of archival and privately recorded
video clips. Say what you will about extreme sports athletes, but they
certainly document themselves thoroughly.
Unfortunately, they are not always wildly interesting as interview
subjects. Ironically, White is probably
the most engaging on-camera presence, aside perhaps from another extreme skiing
colleague, whose appearances take on tragic implications in the third act.
As fate would have it, Walker first met Pearce
at an unrelated Sundance event and eventually premiered Reel at this year’s festival.
Yet, one wonders how the Park City snow sports industry will appreciate their
unflattering role in the film. Granted,
the road-back section drags a bit from time to time, but there is clearly a
reason why every scene was included. Indeed,
it would make an effective (if somewhat depressing) double feature with Steve
James’ Head Games. Recommended for
fans and critics of snowboarding and related sports, The Crash Reel opens theatrically this Friday (12/13) at the IFC
Labels: Documentary, Kevin Pearce, Lucy Walker