A NEW Australian documentary which follows the journey of three paraplegics and a quadriplegic could further open up the debate on ATV safety.
The Ride tells the story Jim Cairns, Anton Zappelli, Terry Mader and Craig Parsons, who swapped their wheelchairs for quad bikes and rode 5000km across the outback in 2010, to visit the crash sites where their lives changed forever.
Beginning in Perth, their journey takes them towards the centre of Australia, entering the Northern Territory, South Australia and ending in Birdsville, Queensland.
Three of the four men were riding motorcycles at the time of their respective crashes.
Though each rider is scarred from their accident, the film shows the men riding flat out through sand, mud and difficult terrain on specially fitted ATVs.
Adding to the narrative is the need for one of the travelers to arrive in Uluru mid journey in time for his wedding.
But the film does not set out to glorify foolhardy driving. In fact, it aims to promote road safety and awareness of the less-abled.
Producer and director Sandra Cook, whose father died in a car crash in 2004, said she was attracted to the story because it had all the key ingredients – tragedy, triumph and a love story.
“I was intrigued and inspired by the concept of four ‘broken’ men making such an ambitious trek to confront their past,” Sandra said.
“I felt the story had many dynamic and exciting elements – heartbreaking stories of loss, a cautionary tale, and extreme adventure travel, all against a backdrop of survival and resilience.
She describes the documentary as turbocharged and a “boy’s own adventure”.
“Through character confessions, we delve into their darker days, and relive what it was like to become disabled,” she said.
“The audience is given an insight into their worlds and the film breaks down the barrier between able bods and those with disabilities.”
As if scripted to add drama, torrential rains flooded the Simpson Desert creating lakes during filming, prompting them to make an all night dash to their final destination.
“The very real threat of danger from the Australian environment created the perfect piece of third act drama,” she said.
“Who could have imagined the Simpson Desert would flood and threaten to prevent our gang from reaching the final, climactic crash site?”
One of the main characters to the film is also its executive producer, Jim Cairns.
A former general manager of operations for Caterpillar in Western Australia, Jim said the trip was timed so he would be on his crash site on the 25th anniversary of the crash.
“I had just turned 50, so it was significant to me because it represented 25 years in, and 25 years out, of a wheelchair,” he said.
“I had spent about 15 years trying to find the site and had just found the one person who knew where it was - the policeman who held my head until the helicopter evacuated me in 1985.
“He had retired to a station in the North of Queensland and committed to driving 12 hours to Birdsville to show me where it was.”
Jim praised the transport technology which allowed them to access the outback.
“The mobility of quad bikes allowed us to see and experience things that we thought impossible beforehand,” he said.
Road safety expert Dr Soames Job said the film has the capacity to not just engage viewers but also tell a cautionary tale.
“Their reactions to the events which led them to their injuries and the consequences, are male and Australian yet gently powerful,” Dr Job said.
“It is impossible not to feel great empathy for them. The whole effect is to feel for them, feel uplifted by their courage and disarming honesty, yet never feel that these injuries would be OK or even really endurable.”
But the film may not see the light of day without support from the wider community.
A campaign has been launched to raise money to take the film on a national tour around Australia, targeted at schools and community groups.
The campaign ends on the December 14.
Donations to get the film distributed can be made at www.indiegogo.com/theridedocumentary