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crash_reel_ver5THE CRASH REEL
Directed by Lucy Walker
Written by Lucy Walker and Pedro Kos
Starring Kevin Pearce, Shaun White and Jake Burton

Stephen Murray: They want to see people go out there and crash, because that’s what people love.

The world of action sports is a complete mystery to me. I’m not one of those people who finds joy in the idea of jumping on a snowboard or BMX and racing full speed down a hill or up a half-pipe. Luckily there are those who find nothing but complete happiness in these adventures; they fulfill some desire for the rush and at the same time provide entertainment to excited spectators. To me, these sports say one thing: danger. And if there is one film this year that highlights not only the dangerous possibilities of action sports, but the desperate need for insurance to cover these athletes, it’s THE CRASH REEL, an intimate and sometimes unsettling documentary that focuses on Kevin Pearce, the snowboarding Olympic hopeful who experienced a devastating crash, leaving him with severe head trauma and out of a professional career.

From years of home movies, we see Kevin Pearce emerge onto the snowboarding scene like no other athlete before him; he had a skill that was natural, and some say unparalleled. He was an Olympic hopeful for the 2014 winter games with corporate sponsorships and a famed rivalry with snowboarding champ, Shaun White. Some say that guys can’t be divas; well, I’d say that two guys fighting for the spotlight and going as far to have their very own personal half-pipes carved into the sides of mountains to get away from the eyes of media, very much make these two action sports stars the very definition of diva. But the desire to out-do one another isn’t without its consequences, and with a stunt that was to wow the judges and impress the fans, Kevin missed his mark and crashed hard on his half-pipe, leaving him with a brain injury that caused him memory loss, cognitive issues, loss of motor skills and more horrific things than should not happen to one person all at the same time. His dreams of going to the Olympic games now gone, Kevin has to start his life all over again, including learning how to do what he loved most, learning how to snowboard again.


THE CRASH REEL is full of interviews from Kevin’s loving and involved family and members of the action sports community, including Sarah Burke, who passed away in 2012 due to crash related injuries. Many people make a case for the need for insurance in what they do, since all medical care comes straight from their own pockets, unlike stars in other sports like the NFL. Kevin’s struggle to begin his life again is a slow and painful journey to watch; his desire to get back onto his board outweighs what his body and his mind are actually capable of. It is as if he just didn’t comprehend what he has been though, and how it effected not only himself, but his family and friends.

The amateurish approach to THE CRASH REEL begins to take its toll about 10 minutes in. The captions on the screen resemble handwritten crayon words from a 3rd grader, which makes them difficult, if not almost impossible to read. Most of the footage is grainy home video that isn’t shot well (and why would it be) but it almost looks like a lazy compilation. Part of the film begins to feel like an internet “best of fails” clip, which to some may be hard to watch, and begins to feel a little unnecessary after the 8th or 9th clip. Still, the importance can’t be denied. These accidents do happen and no matter how severe, the athletes are mostly unequipped financially to deal with the hospital and medical bills (unless of course you’ve secured a fat sponsorship). The music however is amazing and features songs from Sigur Ros, Bon Iver and Stars of the Lid, which almost makes up for the mostly home video quality footage.


Director, Lucy Walker (COUNTDOWN TO ZERO) has taken a keen interest in showing the difficulties of starting anew, from a life devastated by an accident and the repercussions of stubbornness and the desire for more. Kevin Pearce’s story isn’t unique. In fact, THE CRASH REEL is full of other stories just like his, and in a way, he was lucky to have gotten out as well as he did. This film is a warning, a fight for insurance coverage and the strongest case I can think of for wearing a helmet.


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