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Down: Indie Rock in the PRC

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Down: Indie Rock in the PRC

Madeleine Wilcox reviews Down: Indie Rock in the PRC, directed by Andrew Field and Jud Willmont (2012, 52 minutes)

In Down: Indie Rock in the PRC, Andrew Field and Jud Willmont explore Mainland China’s vibrant underground rock music scene. The 52 minute documentary’s lively pace, edgy subject matter, and insider perspective is refreshingly off the beaten path of most materials developed for students of China language and culture. As such, it can provide a bold counterpoint to more standard narratives of timeless cultural traditions.

Filmed in 2007, Down opens with a succinct history of the introduction of rock music to China before it follows Field on a journey to, as he says, “find out how rock in China has changed since the early days of Cui Jian (the “godfather” of Chinese rock)…, to experience the rock music scene in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and to find out what that tells us about a changing China.” This “indie rock doc” combines performances, behind the scenes footage at rock clubs and music festivals, and interviews with band members, promoters, and listeners to answer Field’s questions about how and why the musicians make their art, how their music gets performed and distributed, and what its significance is to Chinese and world culture more broadly. Along the way, the music of up and coming bands like Hedgehog, PK-14, Carsick Cars, and Re-TROS are introduced as a new soundtrack to life in China today.

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