When it comes to notorious, rabble-rousing motorcycle gangs, you may have heard of the Hells Angels in the US, Bandidos in Australia, and the likes of Black Power and Mongrel Mob here in little old New Zealand. But have you heard of Satudarah? I never had before watching tonight’s true crime documentary on Rialto Channel, SATUDARAH: ONE BLOOD, but by god I was intrigued.
The Satudarah are known as the Netherlands' most feared biker gang, and with good reason. They frequently make headlines across Europe due to their alleged involvement in large-scale drug trafficking, extortion and murder. Busts on members’ private homes and clubhouses happen regularly, and their highest-ranking members are constantly in and out of prison, and the front pages of the press.
A relatively recent phenomenon in the history of outlaw bike gangs, the club was only founded in 1990 in Moordrecht in Holland’s south, starting with just seven members, most of whom were ex-soldiers. These days, there are more than 40 chapters across the Netherlands, and the gang has also gone international with a presence everywhere from Norway to Spain, Indonesia, Thailand, Belgium, France and even Australia – although the Sydney chapter was reportedly raided and shut down not long ago.
Unique in the fact that they are a multi-ethnic gang, initially, the Satudarah were ethnic Moluccans from the Maluku Islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The story goes that following WWII, the Moluccans helped the Dutch re-establish the Dutch East Indies as a colony. Known for their fighting skills, they served in the Dutch East India Army before 1949, and also fought with the Dutch against the Indonesian independence movement As a result, the Moluccans were seen by other Indonesians as traitors and were eventually forced to migrate to Holland. The Moluccans said the Netherlands had promised to help them shape a homeland, but the vow was never fulfilled.
In 1951, the Dutch Government re-housed South Moluccans in a former Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 15,000 Jews were confined during the German occupation in World War II. Today many of them still live in rural areas, where they feel displaced and mistreated with good reason. As with any culture that has been treated indelicately and taken from their homeland, they have suffered greatly as a result, and convictions for crime amongst the small ethnic group has been high.
The latter is explored to some extent in SATUDARAH: ONE BLOOD, which gives real insight into what makes the unusual gang of misfits tick. As aforementioned, Satudarah permits members from any ethnic or religious background, and filmmakers Joost van der Valk and Mags Gavan who were given exclusive fly-on-the-wheel insider access to the gang demonstrate this ably. It’s interesting to note that in their world traditionally 'classical' ideals like virility, brotherhood, loyalty, courage and spirituality are held in extraordinarily high value, and they live by some very strict codes.
One of the most realistic documentaries about outlaw clubs I think I’ve ever seen, SATUDARAH: ONE BLOOD is by no means perfect, but its fly-on-the-wall access is a credit to the filmmakers. The film provides a broad view of the club and still remains relatively objective, with an equal emphasis on both their strong Moluccan traditions and their terrifying impact on those that cross them in the criminal underworld. An interesting watch on a fascinating subject.
SATUDARAH: ONE BLOOD premieres Thursday 9 November 8.30pm on Rialto Channel
Watch the trailer here
Remote record here