Chinese punks – who knew? Yet thanks to this documentary by Australian filmmaker Shaun Jefford, we get a glimpse into their nascent underground scene, on the eve of Beijing's 2008 Olympics.
Filmed with appropriate graininess and supplemented with bootleg gig footage, Jefford has found a diverse and fascinating movement. Primarily exploring the lives of two bands, MiSanDao (self-proclaimed "Chinese skinheads") and Demerit, the difficulties they face in trying to do what they love are highlighted. The government censor lyrics (stymieing album launches), the bands give up on money (most jobs requiring twelve-hour-days), and their families are unwilling to support them. Yet with the nightclub D-22 as their base, punk is what they do.
More searching questions might have been asked. The appropriation of the "skinhead" tag by MiSanDao is not addressed until towards the end of the film (to reassure the audience that the band are not neo-Nazis, after they are shown playing a German skinhead festival!) The cultural analysis of Michael Pettis, the American founder of D-22, is the only critical voice throughout the film (albeit learned) and language also seems to have been a barrier.
But the music provides its own justification and thankfully Jefford has made it the main event. This is China as never before seen – you'll just be grateful for a look inside. Spike, Demerit's singer, proudly claims "we live punk ... we are punk", and arguably rebellious punk-rock has never been more needed than in modern China. You'll think about music in a new light.
Cambridge Film Festival Daily
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