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"Crash Reel" documentary provided fresh insights on life

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I am gaining an ever-deeper appreciation for the value of independent documentary films and the power they have to help us see issues and life from different perspectives. It's helpful to have our assumptions challenged. 

At Vox Docs Film Festival last Friday at Leavenworth's Snowy Owl Theater, a sizable crowd watched "Crash Reel," a documentary about former Olympic snowboard hopeful Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury several weeks before the 2010 Olympics. The film chronicles his obsession with returning to competition, despite the efforts of his family and doctors to dissuade him because of the risks to his health.

It took Pearce a few years to finally come to the realization that life had changed and that snowboarding was too great a risk. Festival organizer Rick Wray arranged to have Penny Condoll, the founder of the Brain Energy Support Team, speak about her experience with traumatic brain injuries,

The Tacoma woman was run accidentally run over by her 12-year-old son in 2003, ending her career as a social worker and turning her life upside down.

Condoll said it took her three years to come to grips with the fact that the life she knew was over and that she would have to craft a new reality given her injuries. She easily gets sensory overload and has to be careful about overstimulation. Her life was changed forever.

In a profound moment, she told the audience that she wouldn't trade the experience of her brain injury for anything. Her life today is more meaningful and fulfilling despite the lingering effects of her injuries. 

In her view, the film wasn't really about brain injuries. It was about life and how unexpected changes provide opportunities to rethink and re-envision given a new set of circumstances. 

Every  film at the festival challenged the audience's view of the world and that was refreshing. Such experiences may give us a deeper and more nuanced understanding of life than we see played out in politics and the media, where knee-jerk reactions tend to be favored over the messy contradictions of real life. 

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