New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: The Push

An inspirational story and a cautionary tale, this documentary is about Grant Korgan, the first paralyzed athlete to push himself to the South Pole. It not only shows his passion to complete this treacherous journey, but how he reflects that passion in his next venture as a motivational speaker. 

While watching the journey across the ice we were struck not only by the hardships endured by Korgan, and committed guides Tal Fletcher and Doug Stoup in the 40 below temperatures, but the dedication of the film crew documenting this journey under such dire conditions. Co-director Geoff Callan accomplished his own amazing feat capturing the stark beauty of the trip while conveying, through the camera, their moments of doubt, fear and apprehension at the crucial moments when the whole venture might fall apart. Cinematography by Tom Day is up close and personal, frozen mustaches and all. You will feel the extreme cold as you watch this film. 

Grant Korgan, the co-director, writer and subject of this film was an adrenaline junkie always looking for the next challenge on his skis, a bike or snowmobile. That is, until the day he overreached and slammed his snowmobile attempting a virtually impossible jump. He and his buddies filmed their adventures so his March, 2010 spine-crushing landing is right there for the audience to see. The narration almost matter-of-factly notes the extreme danger inherent in the quest, yet he forges ahead anyway. Consequences be damned.

Despite losing the use of his legs, Korgan re-discovers his desire for extreme adventure, confirmed by his parents and his wife and dedicated supporter, wife Shawna. She is more than a loving, encouraging cheerleader, being a sports fitness trainer who could devote full time to getting Grant’s body ready for the rigors of his trek. 

Within a year of his recovery process, he accepts a challenge to become the first spinal cord injured athlete to push his way 100 miles across the ice shelf to the geographic South Pole in 2012. He was joined by two experienced guides, Tal Fletcher and Doug Stout,  but first he had to prove he could survive the rigors of the Antarctic with a  tremendously rigorous training program.

A 10 day trip like this is an impossible feat for most able bodied people, let alone someone who can’t feel his legs or feet to know when they’re approaching frostbite. The film shows Korgan, who ran a successful nanotechnology company, using his engineer skills to devise a sensor to monitor the temperature of his feet inside his battery heated socks and other useful gadgets. Tension builds to moments of terror when he comes dangerously close to frostbite. 

This ultimately focuses on Korgan’s inspiring story and the power of the mind over body, one push at a time. Now, as a motivational speaker, Korgan urges his audiences to push on no matter how great the physical challenge. As encouraging as that sounds, this is one area we find somewhat commercial. 

The concluding scene of the film comes across as a bit of a promo for his speaking career. Grant Korgan’s story is meant to be inspirational and an affirmation of the human spirit. We found his talking about the experience no match for what you go through watching his journey meticulously documented push by push on the screen. Korgan’ projects a good message saying it’s “More about the ability of the human being, not the disability.” 

The film gets to be somewhat of a grind through the middle of the trek as Korgan meets setbacks en route to his goal of the Pole. Painful as it is to watch, stick with it. You’ll keep rooting for him to make it. And although you know he does, the filmmakers keep the tension going throughout showing the incredibly difficult conditions over a long period of time.  The message is clear as ice. Korgan is becoming an important advocate for people with spinal cord injuries, or any disability, to never give up and to give “one more push.” 

Netflix                  89 Minutes             Documentary

from Movies and Shakers

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