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Monday, January 18th, 2010

Unbeaten - An Inspirational Documentary about Wheelchair Racers.

If you ever wondered what it is like to live your waking life getting around in a wheelchair, unless of course, that is your life, and perform and actually compete as an athlete at the some, you need to look no further than Steve Barber’s excellent documentary, Unbeaten.

This documentary starts out with series of x-rays of damaged spinal cords with an introduction of Dan Aykroyd, dropping his funny man persona to kick the film off in the right perspective:  That in spite of the various athletes’ mobile disabilities and what the outcomes are that may lay ahead, there athletes are still unbeaten.

Barber, who also serves as narrator for a good part of this documentary as well as filmmaker, begins with how he got introduced to Chris Kohler.  The audience quickly finds out how he got paralyzed.  Kohler was accidentally shot and it’s a miracle he is still able to use his arms.  The x-ray shows the bullet still lodged slightly below his neck that caused his disability.

Word comes out about a then upcoming wheelchair racing event called “Sandlers Alaska Challenge” in 2007.  That is a 267 mile race starting from Fairbanks through the mountainous Denali National Park to end in Anchorage.  Kohler becomes a part of Team Paul Mitchell, he of hair styling and related products fame, the other two members being Edwin Figueroa and Geoffrey Erickson.  We also follow their stories as they compete with twenty eight others up in the largest state of the United States.

The first day of “Sandlers” is pretty much 48 miles uphill, designed specifically to separate the men from the boys.  In fact, one of our three protagonists fails to finish but still able to retain a sense of humor and be a cheerleader, actually a sarcastic one, for the others.

After that race ends, the playing field actually gets larger.  The victorious Oz Sanchez and Alejandro Albor .  They are elite racers who become part of the U.S. Paralympic squad.  They take part in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.  Again, they put high expectations on themselves and we are shown their reactions to their outcomes, which is actually not too shabby at all.

This documentary was co-produced by Vanilla Fire Productions and Polaris Media Group, whose mission is to raise awareness of disabled athletes and disabled persons worldwide.  A portion of this film’s profits will go to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Written by James J Cremin on 01/18 at 10:45 AM