A highlight of this year’s NZ Mountain Film Festival was the premiere of Re-Establishment: a punchy and poetic gaze into local athlete Sam Lee‘s return to skiing after a knee injury. Co-directed by Sam and filmmaker Lachlan Humphreys, the observational documentary follows Sam for one year – from injury then rehabilitation, to his first day back on the slopes and re-entry into competitive freeskiing. It’s a universal story – the narrative of physical trauma through to recovery – but one not often fully explored in the action sports genre. It’s also a story of positivity and perserverance. From the vox pops and voiceover, the viewer gets a sense of Sam’s humble nature and drive to succeed. Prior to blowing his ACL at the Nendaz 4* Freeride World Tour qualifier event in March 2014, Sam had never broken or fractured a bone in his body. What came next were two surgeries and eight months of gym training, swimming and biking in “the quest for buff knees”. All of this tackled with a steadfast smile and a singular vision to return to the mountains.
A pivotal point in the film is the paddle-boarding mission in the majestic Matukituki valley. As Sam notes “It was a really good final step to get me back into the competition mode.” Here, alpine scenics matched with Drift helmet cam footage of paddling down a gin-clear river make for a particularly memorable sequence. We then check in on Sam at his base in Verbier, Switzerland and witness his transition back onto snow. Lachlan explains, “He was so excited and stoked. I was a bit afraid that perhaps I was influencing him to push his limits but Sam seemed to push these himself. It was impressive to see him recover and get back into it. What I liked the most about his recovery was his training program to condition his body which shows how much of an athlete he is.”
The film features a luscious powder day in Chamonix; a dreamy segment in which Sam attacks an untracked, tree-lined couloir and floats down the famous Col du Brevent – the site of one of the Freeride World Tour stops. The story comes full circle when he returns to Nendaz to compete again. He’s a skiing machine, nicknamed “The Ibex” for good reason. It’s fairly clear that the prodigal sportsman is back.
– ANNABEL WILSON
Check out the teaser for Re-Establishment on Clean Line Production’s vimeo here.
Catch the Mountain Film Festival in Wanaka, Cromwell and Queenstown this week. Programmes can be picked up at Wanaka Paper Plus and viewed online at the festival website mountainfilm.net.nz.
To appear in our Gig Guide, submit your events to our website. For further support with promotion, advertising, interviews, reviews and photography for your happenings, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.