An Accidental Life
The documentary, ‘An Accidental Life’, about climber Quinn Brett who experienced one of the most traumatic accidents in the history of rock climbing,
An Accidental Life details the recovery of alpinist and speed climber Quinn Brett who, while at the peak of her athletic career, experienced one of the most traumatic accidents in the history of rock climbing. This story shows the complexity of a whole human being in the midst of extraordinary change. It looks, unflinchingly, at the good, the bad and the quirky of Quinn’s experience as she grapples with life after a near death climbing accident.
Having recently been one of North America’s strongest and most accomplished athletes, Quinn’s experience provides viewers with new insights on living with a significant impairment. Her lived experience shared through this film will challenge us to acknowledge stereotypes and perhaps face some of our own prejudices related to able-bodied privilege and profound transformation. While popular media often presents para-sports athlete stories, like Quinn’s, as feel-good tales of epic human achievement with an invincible heroic protagonist at the center, few films have the courage to look at the stories that could end in defeat. Few are bold enough to look closely at those caught in the in between; those who take great risks, fail and suffer loss – those, adapting to a new life.
In AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE, we meet Quinn after her accident. She is scarred, paralyzed and disoriented yet fully engaged in physical therapy with her therapists. One moment she is telling Henna Taylor (director and camera operator) raunchy jokes and the next she is waxing poetic. We see her longing and searching for any sign that the life she had will return as her playful optimism gives way to despair.
Her accident stripped her of a meaningful career where she moved freely in the wilderness. It also formed a barrier between the people and purpose she loved. The same places where she voluntarily challenged her body now represent unavoidable mental obstacles – her past greatness mocks her present reality. She has only herself to blame for it.
In AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE , we accompany Quinn through two long years – waves of loss, moments of fear, bitterness, self-deprecation, playfulness and ultimately discovery. She is on a personal and emotional journey deep into the process of grief. Can she foster joy in this new accidental life, even while mired in self-care and self-doubt?
Over time and with great effort she finds different ways to move in the wilderness, a worthwhile job opportunity emerges and a spark of romance returns. To forgive herself for all that she’s lost Quinn must return to her accident, confront her ghosts and reveal the beauty of what remains.
An Accidental Life Reviews
“An unflinching and compassionate documentary about friendship and loss, An Accidental Life is a tremendous feat by a talented filmmaker on the rise”
– Jimmy Chin (FREE SOLO; MERU)
“I appreciate the fact that this film was made by a woman, who clearly brought a more intimate view into Quinn’s life. Watching Quinn deal with all of the pain, loss, and ultimately, acceptance of the life changing consequences of her accident, was a good reminder of the transient nature of life and resilience of the human spirit”
– Lynn Hill
AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE is produced by Henna Taylor Films in association with Cut Anchor Films, and is supported by adidas TERREX.
Quinn Brett is an adventurer and multi-record breaking athlete. Tying herself to Estes Park, Colorado she established herself as a climber and mountain athlete completing first ascents and speed records in Yosemite, Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park, Patagonia, Greenland and others. When not galavanting around the globe attempting personal goals, professionally Quinn worked during the summer months as a climbing ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park. To complement the rescue and medical component of this job, Quinn taught Wilderness Medical Courses with Remote Medical International during the winter months. In October 2017, Quinn fell over 100 feet while climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park sustaining a spinal cord injury, leaving her currently paralyzed from the waist down. Movement in public lands was a big part of life and vocation. In 2021, she became the first person to complete the Great Divide Mountain bike route with her off-road hand-cycle. She is also back working full time with the National Park Service. Quinn is doing the best she can to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while still fulfilling her baseline passions.
Henna Taylor is an award winning, independent, queer filmmaker based in Boulder, Colorado. She is best known for her films in the outdoor or rock climbing genre. Henna and her wife, Madaleine Sorkin are the founding members of the Grief Fund, a project supported by the American Alpine Club that is creating resources and inspiring better conversations for communities ravaged by loss. In 2019 she shot and directed Speak to Me Softly, which went on to win Best Mountain Short at Banff Mountain Film Festival, and Best Creativity at Cascadia Adventure Film Festival. Her 2018 short-documentary Wadi Rum (33 min.) won the Grand Jury Award at the 2018 Yosemite International Film Festival. Also in 2018 she directed and shot Valley of the Moon, one of four films selected for the Reel Rock 13 Film Festival.
“Quinn’s story reflects the beautifully subtle yet pervasive human cycle of shedding who we thought we were for who we really are. Time and time again we learn that what we do is not who we are. For the past two years I have had the honor to capture this unfolding process with Quinn, the joy, the sorrow, and the strange hilarity of it all. To film a person honestly: to pay close enough attention to be able to see what is not being said, takes a long time. I am always so incredibly humbled when I am given this time.”