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Riders of Destiny: A Gritty Tale of Child Jockeys in Sumbawa

The film is a poignant exploration of a dangerous tradition in Sumbawa, where child jockeys risk their lives in the high-stakes world of horse racing.

Keywords: Sumbawa, Child Jockeys, Horse Racing, Poverty, Tradition, Indonesia. Three Words: Heartbreaking, Eye-opening, Powerful


"Riders of Destiny" (2019), directed by Michael Niermann, is a poignant documentary that explores the lives of Sila and Firman, child jockeys in the impoverished island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. This film provides a sobering insight into a long-standing tradition where the stakes are high, and it's the young riders who pay the price.


The documentary follows the journey of Sila and Firman, two child jockeys who navigate the thrilling yet dangerous world of horse racing. Despite their tender age, they are thrust into an adult world of risk and reward, where a single race can be the difference between a life of poverty and a glimmer of hope for a better future.

More Film Analysis


Niermann's approach in "Riders of Destiny" is primarily observational as he captures the raw, unfiltered reality of these children's lives. The film is rich in detail, with an in-depth exploration of the societal pressures and economic factors driving this dangerous tradition.

Historical and Factual Context

The tradition of child jockeys in Sumbawa is rooted in the region's history and economic context. Horse racing is viewed as a lucrative opportunity for families struggling with poverty, despite the high risk involved.

Key themes in the film

  • The harsh realities of poverty and economic disparity
  • The resilience and spirit of children thrust into adult roles
  • Society's willingness to exploit the vulnerable for entertainment

Film Comparisons

Unlike other sports documentaries on iWonder, "Riders of Destiny" offers a unique perspective on a lesser-known tradition and its impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

Noteworthy Moments

One of the most impactful moments in the film is when Sila, despite his young age, shows an old soul's wisdom, expressing his dreams and fears about his dangerous occupation.


"Riders of Destiny" has been lauded for its unflinching portrayal of a harsh reality, earning an impressive IMDB score of 8.5.


"Riders of Destiny" is a must-watch for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of tradition, poverty, and childhood in a global context. It's an eye-opening film that challenges viewers to question societal norms and the cost of entertainment.

More film information:


  • IMDB score: 8.5
  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
  • Metacritic score: N/A
  • Film Festival Awards: N/A



  • Sila: A young, resilient jockey who dreams of a better future.
  • Firman: Another child jockey who, like Sila, is thrust into the adult world of horse racing.



  • Sumbawa: An impoverished Indonesian island where child horse racing is a long-standing tradition.

Key Questions Raised by the Film

  • Is tradition a justification for endangering children's lives?
  • How can economic disparity lead to exploitation of the vulnerable?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form

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  1. Famous Book: "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens - both portray the harsh realities of children living in poverty.
  2. Famous Song: "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman - both share themes of hope and escape from poverty.
  3. Famous Art: "The Gleaners" by Jean-François Millet - depicting the harshness of poverty.
  4. Famous Celebrity: Jackie Chan - known for performing his own stunts, similar to the dangerous risks the child jockeys take.
  5. Colour: Grey - representing the bleak circumstances and uncertainties of the children's lives.
  6. Music Style: Blues - reflecting the struggle, hardship, and resilience of their lives.