<Rebel Riders>, is a film by Dutch cinematographer Marc Aziz Ressang, who has been living in Asia for 8 years. It’s a documentary about Vespa Ekstrim, an Indonesian community where people share their love of modifying their Vespas into outlandish novel hybrid vehicles.

Vespa Ekstrim is not a new thing – you can easily find articles, documentaries and photos on it, including, Indonesian photographer Muhammad Fadli’s impressive photo series <Rebel Riders>. High-quality imagery, striking compositions, and lush colors bring a sense of mystery and respect to this community presented in the photo series.

Adul (middle), Bango (left), and Ajis (right). Three scooterist in Bekasi, a Jakarta’s suburb.Photo by Muhammad Fadli

It was back in 2018 that Marc Ressang first time came across this photo series. Soon enough, Marc Ressang decided to attend one of the Vespa meet-ups with Muhammad Fadli in Indonesia and see what it was all about.

At first Marc made a short video trailer to see if there were any outlets interested in doing the production. But after getting dismissed a few times, he finally decided it was better to go about it himself – otherwise it would never get made.

The so called ‘vespa sampah’ literally translated as ‘garbage vespa’. The riders usually collects various recycleable garbage along the way they are traveling. They will sell the garbage, mostly plastic bottles, to any local recycler in case they need money to buy petrol or other needs.Photo by Muhammad Fadli

He first started the filming in November 2018 and travelled to five different places to lay out and connect the story, meeting Vespa enthusiasts in Bukittinggi (Sumatra), Jakarta, Bandung, Kediri (Java) and Bali. All in all, it took about a year from start to finish.

Scooterists from Kendal, Central Java, having some rest by the roadside. They traveled with this extremely modified vespa for some hundreds kilometers in five days to attend an annual event .Photo by Muhammad Fadli

The riders are all from different backgrounds, evident in how they express themselves through their bikes. Yet they all have a common brotherhood and attitude, with a mission to see the country for themselves.  They always recite the same motto, “One Vespa; one thousand brothers.

The movement began shortly after the political reforms of 1997. Before that, self-expression was tightly controlled. The biggest problem for them presently is that most bikes aren’t road legal and enforcement is getting stricter. In the worst case, if the police catch them, their bikes can be destroyed. Hence why you won’t see the really crazy ones in Bali where road restrictions are tighter.

Neo, a scooterist from Balaraja, Banten Province, Java. This vespa has won awards in various vespa modification contest and being copied by other fellow scooterists.

During his filming, Marc saw countless modified Vespas, but the tree bike definitely was the most unique one for him. Neo is the owner of this tree bike – he is a scooterist from Balaraja, a small town in Banten Province, Java. Because of his custom-made tree Vespa, Neo has gained a large following on Instagram. In 2016, he travelled for more than 3,000 miles in this Vespa. Marc said he enjoyed hearing how people learned to build and repair bikes from scratch, and basically giving up everything up for a few years just to drive as far as they could. For this group, the Vespa is not just a bike, but a lifestyle. It’s an extension of one’s personality – an exaggerated form of self-expression.

The language barrier was the main challenge when conducting good interviews, Marc recalls, but luckily he found a couple of good ‘fixers’ that were able to help out in each location. The original plan was to follow a crew to the biggest extreme Vespa festival in Indonesia, but once they got there it turned out that it was being held on an air force base, and foreigners were not allowed in. They had to go back to the drawing board after that.

Screenshot from 《Rebel Riders》

As we mentioned before, lots of media has covered Indonesia’s extreme Vespa scene before, but In Marc’s opinion, those pieces took a too sterile approach to the subject, and don’t really try to convey the craziness of this lifestyle on the road. In Marc’s <Rebel Riders>, the idea was to form an audiovisual experience that links with the Vespa community.

Marc has sent his documentary to a couple of small film festivals already. Ideally, he’d like to return with a bigger production team and budget to follow a Vespa crew around longer, and turn it into a story about their personal journeys.

And Muhammad Fadli, the Indonesian photographer who inspired Marc has released the <The Rebel Riders> photo book, which you can order here: http://dienacht-magazine.com/2018/10/25/rebel-riders

See more of Marc Ressang’s work on his official website

See more of Muhammad Fadli’ work on his official website