Red Deer-based Paralympian swimmer Tammy Cunnington continues to show how relentless determination, the right attitude and an unstoppable forward focus can pave the way to superb accomplishments.
Audiences will soon have the chance for an up-close look at Cunnington’s compelling journey through the screening of Power On Water during the upcoming Central Alberta Film Festival (CAFF) in Red Deer which runs Feb. 20th to 23rd.
Power on Water, which was written, directed and edited by Rueben Tschetter of Cache Productions and commissioned by the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery, has also been nominated in CAFF’s Best Short Documentary category.
The screening is set for Feb. 22nd at 6 p.m. sharp at Carnival Cinemas.
As the film’s synopsis explains, “Power On Water is a powerful short film about her life, her passion for sport and her single-minded focus on getting to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.”
Cunnington, who is also an ambassador for Fast & Female and a VIP and an accessibility consultant for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, is thrilled for the opportunity to expose the project to a broader audience.
“It’s a little bit more focused on Rio and what it took for me to get to the Paralympics,” she explained of the project. “But it’s also about the full journey from the time I was injured when I was six.
“There’s also a conversation about how Rio didn’t go how I wanted, and how I handled it afterwards and things like that.”
According to the The Cache Project web site, “Cunnington burst on the international stage in 2015 with a triple medal performance at the Parapan American Games in Toronto and a seventh place in the 50-m freestyle at the IPC World Championships.
When Cunnington was six years old she was struck by an airplane at a Ponoka air show in April of 1982.
The accident left her a paraplegic with the full use of her right arm, plus her core and shoulders.
As Cunnington explains in the film, family support and encouragement helped to fuel her own sense of not letting a single thing get in the way of both living a normal life and pursuing her dreams – whatever they would ultimately turn out to be.
Meanwhile, as the film’s story unfolds, it’s clear she’s got an utterly dedicated team surrounding her as well. That includes her husband Marty Piffer who also gives context to her story.
Cunnington, who is absolutely open about her experiences and speaks with such sincerity and humility throughout the project, said it was a bit of a challenge to be the focus of attention during the course of developing the film, but she’s enjoying the fact that it is indeed having an impact.
“It’s really an honour for people to have seen enough of my life and what I’ve done to want to (see) the film and to share it with more people,” she said. Throughout the film, Cunnington shows those characteristics that have also made her such a likable, accessible and inspiring figure.
And it’s that kind of candor that continues to make people just want to learn more about her and cheer her on every step of the way.
The inspiring film, which was actually first released last summer, can be viewed on demand inside the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery’s history exhibit ‘Remarkable Red Deer: Stories from the Heart of the Parkland’ during gallery hours.
A few months later, a digital link was released as well.
Folks can check it out on Cunnington’s Twitter feed.
Ultimately, kudos must go to Tschetter as well for putting together such a meaningful documentary that brings Cunnington’s story to the forefront.
It’s a clever mix of interviews, images and footage that meld seamlessly into a 20-minute project that fits so much of Cunnington’s story in.
“I never had these moments of, I’m never going to walk again – my life will never be the same,” she said. For Cunnington, it was largely about working through and with a sudden and life-altering event.
When she was young, the doctor wanted the family to take home a particular type of wheelchair but Cunnington declined.
“I knew I would need a wheelchair but I didn’t need that level of one,” she added with a laugh.
She’s a wonderful person to feature, not just because of her athletic accomplishments, but also because of her engaging personality and overall accessibility.
“My life has challenges everyday,” she said. And it’s been worth the sacrifices, the efforts, the intense training and the work – no question about it.
”There are little things that might be difficult and harder than it would be for other people but I’ve gotten to travel the world, I’ve worn the Maple Leaf and I’ve had these amazing experiences that had I chosen to stay at home, I wouldn’t have experienced.”
As to the film, Cunnington hopes it gives viewers a chance to reflect on their own lives and the choices they are making.
Maybe if they are struggling with something, maybe it will help them take a second look and encourage them to think about how they can live ‘fuller’ lives, she explained.
“There are ways of doing more, of being happy and of finding our passions and embracing those rather than just letting the days go by.”
Film descriptions, screening times and tickets can be found at cafilmfestival.ca.