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Wham! in China: Foreign Skies (1986)

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1986 (USA)  »

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First Band to perform and document China See more »

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A sentimental treasure, definitely worth a viewing
4 January 2017 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

A sweet, groundbreaking documentary.The first band to ever perform in China, Wham! was welcomed into the country as music missionaries from the west. This is a must see for all Wham!/George Micheal fans and pop music historians.

A little backstory: Born and raised in China myself in the 90s, I have no knowledge of Wham! until I was well into my 20s, quote from my Canadian friend "You don't know who Wham! is?!" However I have heard "Last Christmas" over and again in Chinese shopping malls and cafes. When George Micheal passed, the Chinese headline titled "the guy who wrote Last Christmas died".Not a particular fan of Wham! myself, I came across this film while searching for Lindsay Anderson films. I was surprised to read in the trivia that Wham! was the first western band to have played in China. Thus I did some research on my Chinese search engine, and found that the Chinese audience were positively "shocked and stunned" upon seeing Wham!'s performance, having little or no idea about western music. Wham! had blown their minds and literally brought pop music into China. They were the inspiration for a new generation of musicians that will completely transform Chinese pop culture.

It wasn't Wham!'s idea to come to China, nor was director Anderson interested in Wham! or China. However I find it interesting that Anderson, who made anti-capitalism films, filming in a communist country. Also knowing his latent homosexuality, as well as George Micheal's infamous one, this film seems really rather homoerotic.

Even though it's always fun to see two cultures meet, this one is especially hilarious(more so since I'm native Chinese I guess), the reaction of Chinese audience is gold. There's also this one scene where Wham! makes a speech about how their act shares similarities with the Chinese opera, then the translator followed:" ...the similarity is 'lively' and 'colorful'!"

We see the 22 year old George and Andrew, wearing Red Army caps and colorful shirts, walking among the curious blue-green-gray Chinese(a gloomy palette we've had for decades, only just making the transformation to bright colors since the 80's)making an adorable contrast. These shy and giggly chaps, dancing and twirling with an energy so great, not knowing how much they've influenced a whole country, how important their name is to Chinese pop music history, nor that homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness in China at the time, or whatever hardship is ahead of them. They were just smiling, so carefree and innocent, forever lively and colorful on film.


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