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River of Life

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It's nearly midnight on the Yukon River. The night echoes with the sound of eight paddles, pulling through the water in unison. It's been a long day, and the paddlers are sore, tired, and drenched from storms. Still, they push on.

This is the Yukon River Quest, the world's longest annual canoe and kayak race. From around the world, athletes come to test their endurance, racing day and night along 740 kilometres of rugged river shoreline.

River of Life chronicles the experiences of one group of racers, the determined women who make up the 2006 Paddlers Abreast team. Candid and revealing, this beautifully-realized documentary follows the women from the moment they climb into their boat in Whitehorse to the cheers that greet them in Dawson City. Set against the stunning backdrop of Canada's north, this film combines lively footage of the race with touching and humorous interviews with the women, their families, and other paddlers.

Some members of Paddlers Abreast have been in remission for years, one was diagnosed as recently as the year before. Their diverse stories unfold in intimate conversation as they reveal their indomitable will to live and the reasons for pushing themselves to new limits by paddling competitively.

Stroke by stroke, they forge on; everyone moving fluidly, part of the river and its surroundings. As the documentary follows the arduous physical and emotional journey of the team made up of breast cancer survivors in its struggle towards the finish, what emerges most clearly is the incredible strength and spirit resonating from the boat. River of Life is an exhilarating story of a group of women who have faced death and understand how precious life is. By taking on the Yukon River Quest, they illustrate what it means to be fully alive.

2007, 53 min