Thursday, January 5, 2012

“The Movement: One Man Joins an Uprising,” which focuses on 5 disabled athletes who have regained sense of freedom through skiing, official selection of 2012 Sundance Film Festival

From The Aspen Times in Colorado:

ASPEN — The 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced a documentary partially shot in Aspen as an official selection.

“The Movement: One Man Joins an Uprising,” which Kurt Miller of Boulder produced and co-directed, focuses on five disabled athletes who have regained a sense of freedom through skiing. Actor-director-producer Robert Redford and Miller's father, Warren — renowned maker of skiing films — provide the narration for the 41-minute movie, which is among 64 entries in this year's Short Film competition.

Redford is the founder and president of the annual Sundance film festival based in Park City, Utah. In all, Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Resort will offer five screenings of “The Movement.” The festival runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29.

In a trailer, Redford's distinctive voice introduces the film's theme before featuring interviews with Rick Finkelstein, a Hollywood executive paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident seven years ago on Aspen Mountain. The trailer is available at

“This is the story of movement,” Redford says in the clip. “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.”

In the movie, Finkelstein discusses his December 2004 accident at Kleenex Corner, an intermediate trail on Ajax. Audio recordings from emergency responders describe the incident as a “skier-versus-tree” event in the movie.

Finkelstein, vice chairman and chief operating officer for Universal Pictures, considered himself a veteran skier when he flew off a precipice at high speed and crashed into some trees. He collapsed both lungs, severed his spine and suffered internal injuries. He was initially hospitalized at St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction.

Six years, nine surgeries and countless rehabilitation sessions later, Kurt Miller's cameras captured Finkelstein's dramatic return to Kleenex Corner. There also was an interview at the Sundeck restaurant.

Finkelstein spent four days at Snowmass learning how to monoski with Challenge Aspen instructors Ryan Latham and Nicole Marx. Marx said Wednesday that she plans to attend one or more of the screenings at Sundance. She said Latham has more speaking parts in the movie because he shared an offbeat friendship with Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who sold his Aspen home after the accident, told The Aspen Times a year ago that he enjoyed skiing again and working with Miller on the documentary. With the monoski, “You get the same sensation of speed,” he said.

The film premiered in Denver in November and made the rounds through a few cities in 2011. It has yet to screen locally, but Challenge Aspen plans to show it in March as part of a benefit. The venue, date and time have yet to be decided.

Miller was not available for comment Wednesday, but said in December 2010 that he planned to donate proceeds from the movie to nonprofit organizations that specialize in recreational opportunities for people with disabilities, including Challenge Aspen.

Miller said Finkelstein's accident and his ability to overcome it would be woven through the documentary.

“It's the feel-good story,” he said. “Rick had not even seen snow for six years. He never thought he'd ski again.”

The documentary features four other disabled athletes:

Chris Waddell — With more than 20 Paralympic and World Cup medals, Waddell is the most decorated male skier in U.S. Paralympic history. Paralyzed in a ski accident at age 20, Waddell was on the snow again within a year, quickly becoming a leader of his new sport of monoskiing. He is the first paraplegic to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. A U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, Waddell has created his own charitable foundation and has worked as a TV personality and motivational speaker.

Mike May — The world-record holder for speed skiing by a completely blind person, May is a successful entrepreneur and family man. Blinded at age 3 in a chemical explosion, May has led a life of adventure, including a stint as the first blind CIA agent. He produced the first accessible GPS device for blind people. He regained partial vision through a series of transplants in 2000 and is the subject of Robert Kurson's book “Crashing Through.”

Jim Martinson — A U.S. Ski Team Paralympic gold medalist, Martinson was the first wheelchair winner of the Boston Marathon, beating all runners. At 63, he still competes successfully in wheelchair and handcycle events. Martinson served in Vietnam, where he lost most of both legs in a land-mine explosion. Upon returning to the United States, the lifelong skier discovered very little support for adaptive sports. He became a pioneer in both the technology and cultural acceptance of wheelchair sports.

Traci Taylor — Born three months premature with the rare congenital disorder sacral agenesis and a life-threatening malformation of her heart, lungs, kidneys and legs, Taylor received the most dire prognoses for several years. She not only survived but became a poster child at a March of Dimes event, where she met Warren Miller. He took her skiing, provided lessons and equipment, and featured her in his next film. She currently works with students with disabilities.

Kurt Miller self-produced “The Movement” through his nonprofit organization, Make a Hero, on a $450,000 budget.