ONscreen: Re-Establishment film review at the NZ Mountain Film Festival

The following is taken from Annabel Wilson's review of the short film Re-Establishment starring MARMOT sponsored Free-Skier Sam Lee.

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.


Check out the teaser for Re-Establishment on Clean Line Production’s vimeo here.

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