This Sunday on E:60 (9 a.m. ET, ESPN), producer Nicole Noren and National Geographic correspondent Mariana Van Zeller tell a revealing story of Indonesian child jockeys in Sumbawa.
“I first heard about the child jockeys through a Jakarta-based financial reporter and began reporting on this story for ESPN four years ago,” Noren said.
Noren and team had a few obstacles to cross before they were able to get on the ground in Sumbawa in May 2017.
“Around the time we first applied for journalist visas and filming permits, the Indonesian government detained and imprisoned two filmmakers from England because they were shooting a documentary without proper journalist visas, so we did not want to take any risks,” Noren said. “We also wanted to be certain to report the story in a balanced and nuanced manner, so we worked with a local production company for many months before arriving on the island to be sure to have a complete picture of how Sumbawan residents feel about horse racing.”
This story is unique because something Americans may find to be astonishing is part of the everyday culture there.
“The reality is that many families in Indonesia cannot afford school supplies – books, shoes and uniforms – so dropout rates are high, and many kids have to start working at a young age. The top jockeys there can earn in one week of horse racing what their parents make in four months of farming,” Noren said. “For people who watch this story and feel that it’s possibly exploitive or a child labor issue, I think it’s important to understand this perspective.”
Noren says that Van Zeller had been on the radar of the ESPN Investigative Unit for quite some time: “We had been hoping to work with her if the right story came along.” [Note: Van Zeller is currently filming an upcoming series for the Nat Geo Channel. Disney owns National Geographic.]
“Given Mariana’s extensive experience reporting on issues all over the world, she was a great fit,” Noren said. “My goal with this story was to take viewers on an immersive journey, I wanted people to feel like they were there in Sumbawa with us and our two cameramen Jeff Halperin and Cody Shimek.”