The overwhelming majority of the world’s population takes too many things for granted. As youngsters with a lifetime ahead, most think they are invincible and are told by the elders/mentors “you can do anything if you really try.” Yet, sooner or later for virtually everyone, they must come to terms with the absolute truth that our most precious possession is our health. What’s the point of having fame and/or fortune if life, otherwise, is largely unbearable?
Welcome to the world of superstar freeride, dirt mountain biker Paul Basagoitia. From the tender age of two, he knew that bike riding of all stripes would be a big part of his life. By age 10, he was already world champion calibre. Pushed on by both a tough-love mom and his own desire to be the best and make a living by “flying” on his beloved BMX, performing death-defying manoeuvres that won his adulation, daredevil creds and cash.
What could be better?
Captured on film, and remaining a constant reminder of what did happen, Basagoitia’s career came to a sudden halt at the 2015 Red Bull Rampage where his unexpected fall back to earth left him with a shattered T12 vertebrae. His cries of, “I can’t move my feet,” are one of the film’s most chilling moments.
First-time director Fernando Villena, teaming up with cinematographer Anthony Vitale alongside editor extraordinaire Rose Corr, have succeeded in humanizing the incredible journeys of those whose lives are changed in a fraction of a second. Interspersed with Basagoitia’s never-ending road to recovery are the stories and feelings of many others—each with a different situation and outcome: most certainly no two injuries are alike.
And it can happen to anyone: bikers (professional or not), car accident victims, divers, surfers, mothers giving birth, wrong place at the wrong time unfortunates (in one instance a boy, just 14 months old being run over)—in short anyone who either by design or bad luck find’s themselves in harm’s way.
Courageously—just as in his sport—Basagoitia allows the camera (sometimes his own) to follow the scary journey along a recovery path that is riddled with defeats and humiliations (demonstrating how urinating is only possible by inserting a tube into his penis being just one of those moments; happily, his first “on my own” piss is also joyfully recorded).
Those being interviewed offer a variety of insights into the challenges of living lives forever changed. “Woke up in my new body”, “[despite my injury want to] offer guidance for someone else”, “the goal [in a rehab hospital] is to walk out”, [Nichole, Basagoitia’s girlfriend], “I have to be the rock” (as do many other family members and friends—not all of whom have their own courage to stick around), “[I will] die without taking [another] step.”
The search for a “cure” is also widely dealt with, notably an informative segment on stem cells, harvested from self, embryos, or fetus [in the case of abortions]. Try as they might, it seems that only grit, determination and rigorous physical therapy can increase any hope for gains after the typical two-year plateau.
Not surprisingly, deep depression and feelings of uselessness eat away at the inner being of these survivors. With ~250,000 new injuries added annually, the “club” is continually growing and, while the possibility of suicide was briefly mentioned, no statistic was offered on how many did choose to end it all.
Ironically for Basagoitia, archival footage showing his pride of being a two-year-old who had just ditched the training wheels on his first two-wheeler would be replaced by wheelchairs, braces, canes and parallel bars helping him continue to move forward in a far different world of hair-raising speeds and stunts. Yet the final visions of real accomplishments and hope, despite the odds of “ever walking again” for many of the film’s participants are welcome images that ought to be shared with current survivors and the next “batch” of members in a club that nobody wants to join.
And a special shout out to Turtle for providing an original score (most especially the thoughtful sections where on-screen decision-making or revelations are shared) that shows a depth of understanding that the rest of the populace might well consider adopting, instead of looking the other way at anyone with so-called disabilities. JWR