One minute Rick FInkelstein was skiing on Kleenex Corner at Aspen Mountain, the next he was fighting for his life. The veteran skier and Universal Pictures chief operating officer hit a tree in 2004. Among other internal injuries, the impact collapsed his lungs and severed his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. Doctors were amazed he survived the crash. Six years, nine surgeries and countless hours of rehab later, Finkelstein returns to what he calls "the scene of the crime," this time with cameras rolling.
"The Movement" captures Finkelstein's return to skiing, this time in a sit-ski. He receives inspiration in his quest from four people who overcame physical disabilities to discover the freedom of movement. Peppered with plenty of humor and drama, the 42-minute movie is a story of people who face adversity with an intense inner fire.
It was filmed by producer and director Kurt Miller, Warren Miller's son and the former owner of Warren Miller Entertainment. Kurt founded MakeAHero.org with the mission of helping local adaptive sports groups gain recognition and funding. In essence he helps the groups who help disabled athletes. To raise money for the organization he did what he knows how to do best: he made a movie.
"The Movement" intertwines Finkelstein's story with those of mentors who overcame their disabilities and found freedom through skiing: the world record holder for speed skiing blind; a Vietnam vet who transformed adaptive sports; and an amazing little girl who triumphed over a 10 percent chance of survival; and Chris Waddell, 13-time Paralympic medalist. Warren Miller co-narrates the movie along with Robert Redford.
"This is the story of movement," Redford said. "It's about finding that turning point when physical disability is no longer a limitation, but a part of your character. Like most movements, this one began with a crystallizing event, a ski accident causing permanent paralysis."
The film is showing Friday and Saturday as part of the Vail Film Festival. Kurt will be on hand for the showings, along with Jesse Murphree, a disabled Afghan vet who "lost both legs above the knee, had 56 operations and died on the operating table three times," Kurt said. After the film screening, the two men will answer questions.
Some people have admonished Kurt, telling him that by telling the story of a man who nearly died while skiing "he's destroying the ski industry."
"Not even close," he said. "More people will die falling in their bathtub this year than skiing. I love skiing, it's all I've done all my life, all my family's done."
After making hundreds of films that inspire people to get out of doors, to get on the mountain and enjoy life, Kurt was ready to make different kinds of films, he said, films that actually change people's lives.
"I think that in certain times of your life, you look up and go where am I going to go with the second half of my life? I want to raise awareness and money to help people ... there are thousands of people that this affects every single year.
"Rick is still paralyzed but we've given him back part of what he lost from his accident," Kurt continued. "He's changed because of that. It gave him back his confidence and suddenly he's starting to do a lot of stuff he didn't do before."
Each of the stories in the film started with a single word.
"Our movement started with the word never," Redford said in the film. "'You'll never walk again ... You'll never see ... You'll never live to age five.' Never? Our heroes refused to accept that word."
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.