A few months ago, Aurélien Heilbronn went to visit an old friend in the Dominican Republic.
While staying on the island, the French filmmaker – who’s based in NYC – stumbled across a motorcycle gang comprised of young, wide-eyed kids, all of whom got their kicks out of organising and competing in illegal street races at the dead of night. Travelling at exhilarating speeds on customised bikes (and without the protection of helmets), it was, Heilbronn observed, a regular exercise in daring, adolescent escapism. Luckily, he happened to have his filming equipment with him.
The result is Street Racers, a documentary that follows the young Dominican crew and their rebellious midnight exploits, as they block off motorways and go head-to-head in high-speed chases. It’s an intimate snapshot of youth and young manhood, set against the backdrop of hardship, violence and expectation; according to Juancito, the group’s leader, it was the first time they’d allowed a camera to follow them.
“My curiosity was aroused by these groups of kids ignoring the law and taking all the risks to have fun on their bikes in the darkness of the night,” he explains. “(I) knew I had to make a documentary out of it.
“The experience of the shoot itself must be my favourite thing about the film. I’m really proud of the final result and of what my team has achieved. The shoot was (both) interesting and nerve-wracking, it definitely had an impact on me.”
Watch Street Racers in its entirety below.
Words by HQ