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Harry Okpik, champion dog musher, races 600 km across tundra

01/02/2015 09:14 EST | Updated 03/04/2015 05:59 EST
Montreal filmmaker Laura Rietveld's feature documentary follows the story of 60-year-old Harry Sam Willy Okpik, a champion dog musher and amputee who lives in the remote Inuit community of Quaqtaq, Nunavik. Shot over the course of four seasons, the film follows Okpik as he prepares for and races in the Ivakkak, a grueling, 600-kilometre Inuit sled dog race across the Quebec Arctic.

Becoming a dog musher was Okpik's childhood dream.

However, in the early 1960s, government agents shot the dogs of Quaqtaq, and 11-year-old Harry's dream was destroyed.

Twelve years later, after a traumatic education at a residential school, Okpik lost a leg as a result of an accidentally self-inflicted wound. He spent three years in hospital, estranged from his community.

Okpik returned home to reclaim his identity by revisiting his childhood dream, helping to bring back an Inuit tradition that had been lost for decades.

Featuring a soundtrack by Montreal producer Ramachandra Borcar, Rietveld's debut documentary is a powerful human story about a man whose exceptional life and message of determination transcend cultural differences.

Okpik's Dream airs January 2 at 5 p.m. EST and January 3 at 1 p.m. EST on CBC Quebec and CBC North.

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