Documentary could change perception of brain injury

Today sees the release of The Crash Reel, the Oscar-nominated documentary that follows top snowboarder Kevin Pearce following an horrific brain injury.

A snowboarder looks up at a half-pipe
The Crash Reel is a moving account of acquired brain injury
  If you haven’t already seen British director Lucy Walker’s film, then its release could be your opportunity to see a deeply moving, uplifting account of Pearce’s climb towards a recovery that’s far from complete by the close of the film. The Crash Reel – named after the now-familiar montages of extreme sports accidents – may not be for all parents; the depiction of the injury and Pearce’s time in hospital may simply be too much for those who’ve experienced this for themselves. But this film, unafraid to look at some of the most troubling aspects of brain injury, can only benefit the wider understanding of the condition as it documents the Pearce family’s shocking upheaval of circumstances. The film opens as a thrilling showcase of the extreme sports world Pearce inhabits, full of fast cuts, pounding music and rivalries on the slopes. It is to the Pearce family’s credit that they allowed Lucy Walker’s cameras to start rolling after this whirlwind success story is so shockingly interrupted. We see the 22-year-old emerge from a coma with very limited vocabulary and mobility, in stark contrast to the articulate and dynamic overachiever we meet at the beginning of the film.   Perhaps The Crash Reel’s most important contribution is its unflinching portrayal of a recovery that starts and stalls time and again, to the deep frustration of an athlete who has every intention of heading back to the slopes.
Snowboarder Kevin Pearce
Kevin Pearce
This is a family affair, as the parents and brothers who’ve supported Pearce throughout his recovery make a heartbreaking plea for him to stay away from his snowboard. Surely a story many families will recognise, the family's guilt, shock and sadness is shared with the cameras (at one point, Pearce’s younger brother says he ‘misses Kevin’ while the injured snowboarder is actually in the room).     Pearce has a heroic determination to get back to the top, but there are no concessions to a Hollywood-style underdog narrative here, as Pearce slowly and agonisingly comes to terms with the fact he will never compete again.  Instead, Pearce’s drive and determination finds a new outlet in his campaigning for the use of helmets, something he has continued through the release of The Crash Reel with his LoveYourBrain campaign. Lucy Walker, Kevin Pearce and his family deserve the acclaim that has greeted this bold film; it could make a significant difference to the popular understanding of brain injury. The Crash Reel is released on DVD today (Monday, December 9) and is available from Amazon and Ian Ray
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