Riders of Destiny


    These black-and-white images are part of Romi Perbawa’s workings. He came to Sumbawa for the first time in 2010, because he had heard of an extraordinary tradition.

    Photo Copyright by Romi Perbawa

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    For hundreds of years horse races take place in Sumbawa. The particularity is that jockeys are children.

    Photo Copyright by Romi Perbawa

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  • ROMI 3

    After seeing one of the races i was gripped and thus accompanied the children for over five years and published his photobook.

    Photo Copyright by Romi Perbawa

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    When we discovered Romi’s pictures we wanted to know more and got in touch with him.

    Photo Copyright by Romi Perbawa

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    Only two months later we flew to Lombok and continued our journey by ferry to Sumbawa. Our first research trip.

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  • ANSGAR 6

    On our ferry we saw the first racehorses, on their way to one of the many races.

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    When we arrived at the port, we recognized something special about the horses: Just as our DOP Dom, they are rather small.

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    Our first impression: An ostensible idyll. Typical horse wagons and fishing boats.

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    Romi introduces us to the families, that he accompanied the past years. We could immediatly see how close they are.

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  • ANSGAR 10

    When we visited the races for the first time we were impressed by the fearlessness of the little jockeys.

    Photo Copyright by Romi Perbawa

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  • NADIA 11

    But I nearly freaked out: The small jockeys race without helmets or any other protective gear.

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  • MICHAEL 12

    The races are socially important events on Sumbawa. They are not for fun but for winning and making money.

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  • ROMI 13

    Sumbawa is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia. There are few possibilities to earn money. A fieldworker does not earn enough to feed his family.

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  • ROMI 14

    Traditional fishing is means fishing with small boats – only few can make a living with it.

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    In the outer skirts many people live in poverty.

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  • NADIA 16

    Ima is only three years old. His family lives very basic in a wooden hut. The huts are built high, underneath the living area is a cooking facility and there is no canalization.

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  • MICHAEL 17

    The tradition of being a jockey is passed on from generation to generation.Ima’s elder brother is jockey, his father is a jockey and his grandfather rode horses, too.

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  • MICHAEL 18

    Ima will start his career as a jockey in one or two years as well. He has been training, since he was two years old.

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  • ANSGAR 19

    We want to cause the least possible disturbance and are thus working with light equipment. So we work without any artificial light. Dom (DOP) examines his cameras, Ansgar (producer) the sound equipment.

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  • DOMINIC 20

    Although we are trying hard not to cause interest it only takes a few minutes and we are surrounded by children.

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  • NADIA 21

    Not exactly ease to work in a documentary style with our “crowd”. That´s why we tried to entice the children away from the shoot.

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  • ANSGAR 22

    Especially when trying to film interviews, we had to become creative for us to have a some space. Sweets were our last try.

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  • DOMINIC 23

    As usual in Asia we find the best food right on the streets. My favorite: Martabak, a kind of sandwich with i enjoyed with banana and chocolate.

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  • ANSGAR 24

    The food was great.. sometimes we didn’t eat everything though.

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  • MICHAEL 25

    In “Riders of Destiny” we focus on two small jockeys. Firman is only five years old, when we meet him.

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  • MICHAEL 26

    He is trained by his uncle and lives with him, too. The family can only afford a house built with stones because three of their sons work or have worked as jockeys.

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  • DOMINIC 27

    Accompanied by his uncle and his uncle’s sons, they set of to a training session at Bima. Every Thursday and every Sunday, as long as there is not a race on schedule.

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  • MICHAEL 28

    During the training session i got an impression for the first time of what the boys actually have to do. I could really feel the power of the horses.

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  • NADIA 29

    The jockeys are bold and brave. A little five year old turns into a professional at work.

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  • MICHAEL 30

    Sila is one of the most successful jockeys at the moment.

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    With only seven years of age he earns the money for his whole family.

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  • ANSGAR 32

    He is a “rising star” and that’s really what he comes across as. He is sweet but also a little daredevil.

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  • MICHAEL 33

    Within Sila’s family it is nothing unusual, that children are in danger as a jockeys. Sila’s father accompanies his son to each race and takes care of him as good as he can.

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  • MICHAEL 34

    Up to 110 days a year he travels with his father to races around Sumbawa. Usually, his mother is not with him. On the phone she enquires whether Sila is having enough to eat.

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  • ROMI 35

    As the kids are racing so often, they miss school quite a lot. The jockeys thus miss out on a chance for a better future.

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  • DOMINIC 36

    The camera again had a magic attraction.

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  • NADIA 37

    As a married couple working together we always try to take a close look at the issues we are filming but also from as many angels as possible.

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  • MICHAEL 38

    The races are dangerous for the children and in the beginning, I asked myself, how parents can put their children at such risk.

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  • MICHAEL 39

    But for the jockeys’ families on Sumbawa this is a tradition and a natural thing to risk their children’s health for a victory. In order to earn money for their families. And it has always been that way.

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  • ANSGAR 40

    And here are the prices: Apart from from the jockey’s income, they can also win fridges, tvs or cows.

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  • ROMI 41

    The races are a matter of a lot of money. Large sums are put on organizers, the horse-owners and on bets.

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  • ANSGAR 42

    Victims are young jockeys, accidents happen repeatedly.

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  • ANSGAR 43

    During our shooting, Firman too falls down the horse a few times. It was horrible to watch and we questioned if it is right what we are doing. But we decided to continue and that the film has to help to improve something.

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  • MICHAEL 44

    Severe injuries are part of the daily business. Fractured and head injuries. And there have been cases of death, too.

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  • DOMINIC 45

    We disovered tragic stories such as the story of Sharul, who is hemiplegic after he fell of the horse. Jockeys on Sumbawa are seemingly unaware of their exploitation.

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  • MICHAEL 46

    Our film looks at what can be done, so that those young riders could have a better future. Simply banning these races would endanger the basis of existence of hundreds of families.

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  • MICHAEL 47

    Many children love the horses. And they love horse-riding. Romi’s and our goal is to find a way to help those children, without completely breaking with the tradition of horse-racing.

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  • ANSGAR 48

    Sila and Firman luckily didn’t get severely injured during our shooting. This is film aims to help them to get an opportunity for education and thus an escape from a predestined destiny.

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