The Aspen Times
Max Grange is a skier, musician, artist and animal lover. Which is to say, the 30-year-old Snowmass native is a lot like his mountain town peers.
But as the new short documentary “Big Air Max” makes clear, the rest of us have a lot to learn from Grange.
A childhood accident left him with spastic quadriplegia. He is confined to a wheelchair and speaks through a computer system. Yet those limitations don’t hold Grange back from much, nor do they dampen his bright smile and buoyant, brave spirit. The 10-minute “Big Air Max,” which has its world premiere Sunday at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, offers an inspirational profile of Grange, his family and his friends.
“It was really scary when he had his accident,” his mother, Katie, says in the film. “We didn’t know if he would survive more than five days or 10 days or what would happen. … When I accepted him for who he was, that’s what changed everything.”
The film follows Grange onto the mountain, where he skis with Challenge Aspen, in which he was one of the first participants after its founding 22 years ago. We see him play music with Mack Bailey, with whom he wrote the original song “Big Air Max,” and singing with the Aspen Noise Choir. And we see him working with animals – assisting with adoptions in a shelter.
“He’s one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met,” said “Big Air Max” co-director Rachel Mayoral. “He just has this incredible attitude about life and tackling obstacles. He doesn’t let the little things get in his way. … Max does so much with so many obstacles in his way — he doesn’t even view them as obstacles.”
The film is the first by Mayoral and three of her classmates at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) students: Danny Feria, Ben Hunter and Than Kan Sian Khai.
The quartet met at the Isaacson School for New Media. They had been in search of a story that could carry a documentary — a project outside of school assignments. When Grange gave a speech on leadership at CMC last year, the filmmakers found their match. Co-director Khai was deeply affected by the speech and went to his classmates with the idea.
“He brought it to us and said, ‘Guys, we have to tell this story!'” Mayoral recalled.
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