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Amy Donaldson: Filmmaker Kurt Miller shows disabilities may not limit

Published: Sunday, Oct. 30 2011 11:02 p.m. MDT

Filming on location at the Canyons in Utah are producer and director Kurt Miller with writer/director Greg I. Hamilton.

Gary Nate

Kurt Miller hopes to start a movement.

Instead of circulating a petition, leading a protest or staging a sit-in, he's doing what one would expect of the son of the world's most accomplished and well-known action sports filmmaker — Warren Miller.

He is making a movie.

"The Movement" is a film about how people with physical disabilities are not nearly as limited as some might assume. It's about a movement to erase stereotypes and tear down barriers that exist in reality and in the mind.

"It's a rising up," said Miller. "Martin Luther King Jr. started a movement by gathering people behind him, behind a cause. A movement has the ability to change people's lives."

Miller hopes that by showing the story of Rick Finkelstein, people will be inspired to action.

The 62-year-old was paralyzed in a ski accident on Aspen Mountain in 2004. At first, Finkelstein wasn't even expected to survive his injuries. But six years and multiple surgeries saved his life.

But it was not the life he created.

Instead, it was a life where fear kept him from the sport he'd loved, the sport that offered him reprieve. In fact, the day he was injured, he was celebrating the fact that he'd beaten cancer.

What Miller offered him was the chance to meet and be mentored by people who understood the pain and fear that accompany losing physical abilities. Mike May, who lost his sight in an accident when he was a child, holds the world record for speed blind skiing; Jim Martinson, who lost his legs in a landmine explosion in Vietnam, became a pioneer of disabled sport; Traci Taylor, a little girl who was only given a 10 percent chance of survivial, and now works with people who have disabilities for a living; Chris Waddell, a 13-time paralympic athlete, who was, like Finkelstein, paralyzed in a ski accident.

In the film, Miller takes Finkelstein back to the same mountain where he was paralyzed and teaches him to ski all over again — in five days. In doing so, he learns a lot more than how to ski again.

"For people who are struggling to get their lives back movement is something restricted for them or something they can't do," said Miller. "And we're saying, you can have movement… And movement is a kind of freedom."

The film isn't just meant to inspire those with disabilities to push the boundaries. It's meant to prod able-bodied people, as well. Not just to get outside and move themselves, but to find a way to lend a hand to the cause — financially and physically.

"I want these people to move to action," he said.

Miller said when he sold the film company his father started, he knew he wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. Making the film, he hopes, will help him raise money so that anyone can participate in adaptive sports through the Movement Foundation.

The Movement premiers Thursday, November 3 at the Depot in Salt Lake and Saturday November 5 at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. It is a documentary narrated by Robert Redford and Warren Miller.

It is a subject that has always spoken to him, probably because his father has always included adaptive athletes.

"A majority of people in these situations live pay check to pay check," he said. "So I wanted to inspire them, but also to raise the money and help the groups that need it."

Why is sport so transformative? Miller said it's really about just being active, about living life and enjoying some adventures.

"It gives them confidence," he said. "It's not just about the sports. It's physical, emotional and psychological. Doing that physical exercise changes you emotionally. For someone with a disability, it gives them a physical outlet. It allows them, emotionally, to get back some of what they lost. Psychologically, it says if I can do this, I can do a lot of other things."

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com. Twitter: adonsports

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