This is the Finke Desert Race and it is a religion.
A thin, sandy track stretches 230km from Alice Springs in central Australia to the dry bed of the Finke River, the oldest river in the world. Locally known as God’s country, each year over 600 riders tackle the terrain in a quest to simply make it there and back.
For the riders, the spectators and the town of Alice Springs, the event is more than a race. Finke: There and Back delves below the surface to uncover what makes them tick, what drives them to put their lives on the line when they strap their helmets on.
Paraplegic Isaac Elliott is attempting to complete the race that he started a decade earlier. He must modify a two wheeled motorcycle to be able to ride the event, install a custom-made seat and a protective cage. With only a week to spare, he straps himself to the bike and attempts to ride the track.
Scruff Hamill, who lives in a shed full of bikes in Sydney, makes the trip to tick off a bucket list event. Scruff rides old bikes; he has brought over a 1983 model bike and will make his first attempt at Finke on the oldest bike in the field. The desert terrain is far different than the city streets of Sydney. ‘My legs, my back, my shoulders, everything is just in pain’, he remarks after his first ride.
Meanwhile, the factory race teams at the head of the field fight for pride and to be named ‘King of the Desert.’ These teams, with almost bottomless pits of money, chase glory. The contenders are two Alice Springs locals who have spent 6 months in the gym and on the bikes, testing, training and preparing for the most important weekend of their year. They are the legends of the bike division but only one can take the crown.
Stories of racers, families, paramedics and support workers intersect the central themes of family, addiction, and the hero’s journey, unveiling a powerful narrative that will amuse, intrigue, and entertain. It’s not often the viewer receives an ‘access all areas’ pass into the hearts and minds of people in various states of torment and conflict, but this documentary is a thrilling exception. Every year there are gut-wrenching stories of bravery and tragedy. And who will win? The desert will decide.
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