With shocked-out hair and oversize sunglasses, dirty jeans and ironic hand-painted t-shirts, they drag their sticker-plastered amps and instrument cases to and from their shabby communal crash pads and dingy rehearsal spaces, caked with graffiti and gig posters. They’re allergic to steady work and caustically critical of the conformity and consumerism around them. They live to swagger onto the stage of the next nameless, black-walled booze box that’s got a functioning P.A., strap on their guitars, and let ’er rip for a room of acne-ridden, leather-jacketed punk rock kids.
It’s a scene that could be happening across the globe, in Baltimore, Brisbane, Buenos Aires, or Berlin, where documentary filmmakers Susanne Messmer and George Lindt hail from. But with Beijing Bubbles, the pair have captured a slice of countercultural cool striving and thriving in the capital city of Asia’s resurgent powerhouse, China. It’s a country that, as one interviewee points out, has only had rock ’n’ roll for 20 years. Messmer and Lindt, both of them journalists and record label owners, have found five acts making up for that lost time, explored their individual worlds and given them a little room to rock out –- the vintage glam-core of Joyside, the post-punk and riot-girl references of Hang on the Box, the new wave tints of New Pants. Then there’s T9, whose frontman Yiliqi fuses his Mongolian roots with dark rock muscle, and the bluesy Sha Zi, whose leader, Liu Donghong, is old enough to have been deeply marked by the massacre at Tianamen Square. It’s in the shadow of Tianamen, and the monolithic communist state’s morphing into a capitalist juggernaut, that these kids are trying to carve out a corner for themselves and their friends.
Beijing Bubbles was itself a hit-and-run punk rock affair, 40 hours of footage shot over a few days and a few beers, whittled down to the profiles here. “We picked up a few CDs, called a friend, who knew someone and the same afternoon we had our first appointment with the first band,” Lindt and Messmer explain on their website. Their efforts open our eyes to the anti-authoritarian energy of a group of young misfits who may well be building the foundations of a vibrant Chinese counterculture.
"Reveals a side of China you’ve never seen and that its government is unlikely to want you to see" – Robert M. Goodman, DOX DOCUMENTARY FILM MAGAZINE
“Makes a joyful noise” - Leslie Felperin, VARIETY
Director: Susanne Messmer, George Lindt
Screenplay: Susanne Messmer, George Lindt
Cast: Bian Yuan
Producers: Susanne Messmer, George Lindt
Distributor: Kloos & Co. Medien GmbH