The best documentaries drop you so firmly in the middle of something that you realize, This is its own world, its own ecosystem, that I know nothing about. And this short Street Racers documentary does just that. The French-born, New York-based director Aurélien Heilbronn gets an intimate look at the street racers of the Dominican Republic. They’re just kids, but they have their own societies, laws, and lives, that all revolve around these motorbikes.

“I met these kids on a visit to the Dominican Republic,” Heilbronn told Nowness. “They earn a living and spend their time pursuing illegal motorbike races on small custom bikes. They block off motorways and hit high speeds with no helmets on. After following them for three days, I became more aware of the many risks they take to keep boredom at bay. Everyone drinks and everyone has a gun, but the most interesting thing was to see how these kids, who turned out to be quite nice, have created their own sort of family, an incredibly close-knit community. I was told this was the first time they’d ever allowed someone to film them.”

You can see the danger in it, but for them it’s a way of a life. Accidents, being threatened with guns, rival gangs— they all take it in stride as a part of the whole. Watching one of the bikers talking about his father’s interest in bikes and how his son is ready to become involved in biking shows just how ingrained it is in the lives of these riders. You can see the whole video here:

 

It’s obvious that they live and breath these bikes. There’s a community that gives a structure to their lives— not to mention an activity to fill the time. Heilbronn really got a behind-the-scenes look— and it makes for fascinating watching.