Any One of Us @ SXSW – Documentary Spotlight Section

Spinal cord injuries are part of a world which most of us know precious little about. Thankfully. Here in this documentary produced by Red Bull Media House we get unparalleled access to that world. Now that sounds like a dark and dreary place to be, but this film, while giving an at times painful picture, demonstrates that there is light at the end of even the darkest of tunnels.

Paul Basagoitia was a professional mountain biker at the top of his sport. While racing on a particularly steep and dangerous course, Paul suffers a devastating spinal cord injury. Not only is his career over, but his whole life has changed. Being paralyzed was not in his plan. As it is not in anyone’s. From the beginning Paul vows to be someone other bikers can look up to by fighting to walk again. Despite the odds stacked against him.

He begins a tough and painful, both mentally and physically, course of rehab as well as investigating all options available to him like the controversial stem cell treatments, which are not even approved in the United States.

The intimacy here is, at times, difficult. Difficult to watch and endure. You feel weak admitting that as it is nothing compared with what those in the film have had to endure. Besides Paul’s story there are also those of many others who have had years of dealing with being paralyzed. Their stories give context to what Paul is going through.

Paul’s war against his own mind and body unfolds in real time. You get to see every bump, pothole and road closure he comes up against during his rehab. Some of the footage was filmed by Paul himself and he does not hold back. You get to see him at his most vulnerable and down. His sense of hope about walking again wavers.

Despite the fact that he has a very supportive partner Paul has a tough road to haul. His bank account is drained by the stem cell treatments he undergoes in Mexico. He never really accepts 100% his unjury. But is thankful about where he is. Amazing resilience. By two years he has begun taking unassisted steps and even is able to ride a bike again.

Being afforded the opportunity to watch a human rebuild their lives is a rare one. One we should be thankful for because it really gives you perspective. That things that we have to go up against in our lives are no way near what Paul and others like him have to face. Begin to understand that those of us who are not paralyzed don’t really understand what the paralyzed have to go through. We can never understand their feelings and suffering.

A ton of lessons can be learned while watching this. That life can change in an instant. Be thankful for all that you have. And, as Journey said, don’t stop believin’.

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