Is the next generation of punk peculating in underground Beijing, China? A new documentary, Beijing Punk , takes a closer look at emergence of punk in China. I would have never guessed that punk would even be allowed into China considering the current political establishment. Is this another sign that China is embracing western culture? The more interesting question, which is also the films tag line, ““What happens when 1.3 billion Chinese discover punk?”
In an interview featured on Spin Earth, Shaun Jefford, Australian writer and director of the documentary, describes the genesis of the film. The documentary was filmed during 2008 as the the city was preparing to host the Summer Olympics.
Unfortunately, I can’t embed the videos. The code isn’t working, but you can read the complete interview and watch some video clips at SPINEarth.tv. Here is a snippet from the interview.
How did you go about choosing the bands and music scene experts interviewed in the film?
A Punk in China? Not the first association you make so a lot of it was me charmed by the punks and them laughing at me laughing at them. But what really cemented the friendship, I think, is that I am a writer and I am a lyric person. I chose bands whose lyrics I was interested in and who said things that rang true to my sense of truth. And there is a lot of strident truth being sung in Beijing, let me tell you.
Demerit particularly is saying some heavy things, positive but heavy, punk and deep. The lead singer Spike has a hard core opinion in a police state. Songs like “Fight your Apathy”, “Voice of the People” and particularly “Live or Die” really make you think; “would I be singing this song and putting this CD out in China?” That takes brass balls. I really dig that Spike and Demerit are living the punk life and not just wearing it.
Misandao may be the NWA of Beijing and lead singer Leijun is shouting things that no one says in the West, let alone in Beijing. Shouting at police and taking a stand on things like poverty and quality of life for the working class. He’s doing this while being a Skinhead in China—kind of a vulnerable position to start from!
Atom of Hedgehog, a tiny girl and surely the smallest drummer in Beijing, is POUNDING the drums harder than any man can and the audience loves her for it. I’ve watched Hedgehog, live with tight lyrics and superb arrangements, transform a mob of blind by whiskey drunks into a transfixed, cheering and dancing throng.
Then there is PK14 (the thinking man’s Punk band) whose lyrics will stand the hairs up on the back of your neck when you really understand what they are saying about conformity, love and life in an environment of state control. Nights when they perform, like the ones we caught on film, make me certain these bands would be huge if they toured the West. Especially if people felt what I felt in the crowd of a tiny, smokey club like D-22 in the Haidian district of Beijing.
The following is the trailer (different from the clips on SpinEarth) from YouTube:
I haven’t found information about distribution or if it will hit theaters, but I am looking forward to watching this film when it does.