Joining the fast growing mountain of new rock docs, “Beijing Bubbles” profiles five underground bands in China’s capital who express dissatisfaction ranging from muted to outspoken with their homeland. Although made on a manifestly tiny budget, pic by Teuton newcomers Susanne Messmer (a music journo) and George Lindt (a sophomore documaker) makes a joyful noise and scores some insights. “Bubbles” should secure more fest and broadcasting gigs before collecting small change in its hat on ancillary.
Groups and musicians profiled make up an interesting spectrum of styles. Raucous Joyside is fronted by gangly punk Bia Yuan, who only wants to sing, drink and have sex. Thoughtful lead guitarist Liu Donghong of smoother combo Sha Zi takes filmmakers on a tour of Tiananmen Square, recalls the 1989 protests, and points out the Great Hall of the People (where the Communist Party holds its general meetings), where “all the really bad ideas come out.”
The band members of neo-New Wave outfit T9 talk of deliberately isolating themselves from mainstream Chinese culture, while the musicians in Ramones-like outfit New Pants, one of whom runs a store selling toys and movie merchandise on the side, cherish their underground status.
Adding a more positive spin, the lead singer (name unknown) of quasi-riot-girl act Hang on the Box proclaims that her creativity thrives on feeling out of synch with the rest of society.
Images of bustling shopping malls and Beijing’s teeming streets counterpoint the shabby flats and backstreets in which the various musicians interviewed dwell, while other short clips show the more traditional pop music favored by the general public being played in local bars and restaurants. Biographical information about the subjects is somewhat lacking, although one mother pops up to proudly declaim her pride in her son.
Just enough footage of various gigs is used to give a fuller flavor of the music without turning the pic into a concert docu. Lensing is competent, low lighting proving a challenge in some of the venues seen, but sound recording is pro. Pic’s onscreen title is simply “Beijing Bubbles,” yet Thessaloniki press catalog refers to it as “Beijing Bubbles — Punk and Rock in China’s Capital.”