NXNE Presents – DOWN: Indie Rock in the PRC
It’s not hard to imagine someone being frowned upon by their family for being part of a punk rock band, but in time would become comfortable and eventually supportive of their son/ daughter/ niece nephew, dreams and ideals. Well at least in the western world this is not hard to imagine, but in the People’s Republic of China, rebelling against society almost immediately means parental disapproval, and in many instances being outcasted by your family. Nevermind the music, this is what Andrew Field’s and Jud Willmont’s documentary DOWN: Indie Rock Music in the PRC is truly about.
For about an hour Field and Willmont take us through a brief history of the cultural expressions allowed within the PRC over the last 60 years and really point out that while in the 1950s and 60s North America was experiencing a cultural revolution, the PRC did not get a taste of this until the 1980s. The deep roots in family and socialism has impacted greatly how indie music is viewed within the country, and because of that independent music today in the PRC is similar to that of the emergence of independent rock music in North America during the late 60s and 70s; lack of support for music companies, a general disinterest among the population, and the idea that if you are involved in a “punk” lifestyle you have given up on life and are a failure.
DOWN looks at a few of the bands making waves in the PRC, who are slowly crossing waters to North America, such as SUBS, Carsick Cars, PK-14, and Hedgehog. Also, we get a look at a few venues and their owners, a label, and an interested company looking to further promote the indie music scene within the country. DOWN loses traction as it tries to showcase the entire punk rock music scene through a few interviews and a few festivals, leaving an general feeling that much more research could have been put into the film, such as getting more feedback and input from the youths who are supporting this important movement.
Although DOWN is not anything mind blowing, it really showcases how behind the PRC is in terms of cultural expression and how everyday the people who are doing something different and completely against the norms are viewed poorly not only by society but as well as their immediate family. SUBS singer Kang Mao really lets us in on how families, especially in upper class society, see their children living this alternative lifestyle “My Mother still calls me and still says, ‘before your father retires…get into a grad school, get a graduate degree and then find a really good job and simply forget about your current life’, but she simply has no idea how hard I’ve worked to get where I am.” To become who you are meant to be you must only do what makes you happy regardless of who is trying to hold you back.