- Text by HUCK HQ
Aurélien Heilbronn was visiting a friend in the Dominican Republic when he first spotted the racers. Fortunately, the French filmmaker had just finished a commercial shoot in Puerto Rico, and had arrived on the island with most of his filming equipment in tow. “My curiosity was piqued by these groups of kids ignoring the law and taking all the risks to have fun on their bikes in the dead of night,” he remembers. “I knew I had to make a documentary out of it.”
The group, it turns out, were part of an illegal, teenage street racing gang. Riding on small customised motorcycles, they dominate the Dominican Republic’s roads and highways; blocking them off to race each other at breakneck speeds. For Aurélien, their world – packed full of parties, violence and adrenaline – proved irresistible.
“I worked on the film with two producer friends who live on the island: Joey Rodriguez and Tony Bernal,” he tells Huck. “Tony knew the mechanic of the gang we ended up filming. He set up a meeting, the project was explained, and they liked it. Two days later we were in the back of Tony’s truck, going way too fast, but getting the shots.”
The resulting film was Street Racers, a short but lavish nine-minute documentary which looks into the everyday lives of these racers. Described by Aurélien as a “hybrid”, the project weaves together nonfiction storytelling with ethereal, cinematic filmmaking – using dreamlike cinematography and an ambitiously stirring score (courtesy of composer Max Zippel).
“Spending time with these racers made me realise that in the end, these kids were not much different from other kids around the world,” Aurélien says. “They keep boredom at bay by pushing their limits and taking risks. They hang out together because of the friendships and brotherhood they find within the group. We all want to feel like we belong.”
Watch the full film above, or see more of Aurélien Heilbronn’s work on his official website.