Local football legend Mark Rypien is featured in a film with its first screening Friday in Spokane: “Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain.” The documentary covers traumatic brain injury, PTSD and their treatments.
The documentary tells the stories of veterans, athletes and others with CTE, a degenerative brain disease from repetitive brain trauma. It’s an opening-night feature of the Spokane International Film Festival, with events starting at 7 p.m. at the Garland Theater. “Quiet Explosions” is set for 9 p.m.
“It will be showing in Spokane as the first major screening,” said the film’s director and producer, Jerri Sher, who is based in Los Angeles.
Sher said Rypien plays a major role among those interviewed for the film’s coverage on traumatic brain injury and symptoms, as well as how they’re finding relief through treatment. Segments were filmed in Spokane and include Rypien’s wife, Danielle, and his doctor, Bob Sammons.
“I filmed Mark at the Joe Albi football field where he played as a high school kid,” she added. “We filmed all over Spokane. There are only two football players in the entire film. Mark is one, and Anthony Davis is the other, so you’ll see Mark a lot.
“We were very fortunate to get some of the old footage, so we see Mark as a youngster playing football.”
Davis, former NFL running back and USC Trojans standout, talks in the film about life after football and how he keeps his brain healthy.
Sher is scheduled to attend Friday’s screening along with Rypien and Sammons, who treated the former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl XXVI MVP with transcranial magnetic stimulation.
“Mark also has been treated by Dr. Amen of the Amen Clinics, and he recently just started with Dr. Gordon,” Sher said. “Those are the two main doctors in the movie who have come up with these cures.”
Alena Schoonmaker, SpIFF director, said Spokane images and Rypien’s part in the movie went into the decision to open with the documentary, along with the story’s tale of hope.
“We look for an opening night that has a Northwest angle to it,” Schoonmaker said. “Also, traumatic brain injury and CTE has gotten a lot more press. It’s seems like a really scary disease, and this is the first time we have heard of something that can help versus something that would always be with you or always hurt you.”
The Garland offers 500 seats for the larger kickoff event. Additional festival films are scheduled at other venues, including the Magic Lantern, through March 6.
Schoonmaker credited Sher’s award-winning work as a female director, which festival organizers sought out for more of a mix of male and female directors. “She and the Rypiens are very excited to share this story and the hope.”
In recent years, Rypien has talked openly about his struggles with CTE and its impacts on memory loss, depression, violence, suicidal thoughts and uncontrollable impulses.
“Quiet Explosions” also touches on the experiences of a California surfer, Nashville gymnast, New York City firefighter and veterans. One person predominantly featured is Special Forces Green Beret Andrew Marr, who returned to the U.S. after multiple traumatic brain injuries from explosions.
Marr is scheduled to be in Spokane for the screening, Sher said, and she credits his book “Tales From the Blast Factory” as inspiration for the film.
“The VA hospital of your city is pictured in it, too,” Sher said. “There are a lot of veterans who have PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and Dr. Sammons talks about how TMS is available for all veterans.”
Sammons is chief medical officer of TMS Solutions, which has an office at 528 E. Spokane Falls Blvd. The Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review, is an investor in TMS Solutions.
During the three years she worked on the documentary, Sher said she got to know Rypien and his family well. She said the film subjects all want to give back because they’re thankful for treatments.
“I hope the whole town embraces the film because they’re going to be amazed. We were amazed,” she said. “We just hope all the people who either have had a brain injury or worry about Alzheimer’s or dementia in the future will see there are treatments and that they can get better.”
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