Yin Sanr: Fighting the power in China
The Chinese government is currently waging a moral crusade initiated by President Xi Jinping to reestablish socialist core values. On August 8 China's Ministry of Culture has blacklisted 120 songs that it believes " trumpeted obscenity, violence, crime or harmed social morality "
The list’s first 17 songs are all by Yin Sanr, a Beijing-based hip hop group with a devoted local following famous for addressing social problems, class differences and criticising the political system.
They are not allowed to perform anymore and their albums are banned. Their songs are forbidden in karaoke bars and taken down from music streaming websites. Their lyrics are dominated by criticising the expansionism of Beijing, growing materialism, corruption and the brainwashing mentality of the education system.
A film about people who chose to be rebels
I got the unique chance to follow the daily life of frontman Jia Wei from Yin Sanr and his new group Purple Soul in Beijing and talk about his motivation and inspiration. In an oppressed cultural scene he dares to be one of the few artists to take a stand and express his frustrations.
NEWS: Update about the future of Purple Soul
Purple Souls future seems uncertain at the moment. During the shooting of this film group member FAC D12 was arrested and convicted to a three year prison sentence.
Interesting update: Yin Sanr members were just invited to Atlanta to record songs in the studio of Outkast under the guidance of Big Boi.
It's not a film purely about hiphop; This is a story about life in Beijing
Yes, the main character is a rap artist, but this is not just a film about the hiphop scene in Beijing. The film portrays an intimate personal story of the life and struggle of Jia Wei. He takes us into his thoughts, frustrations, his neighbourhood, the rap scene and shows the city and its residents. His vision, the people he meets and his music give a broader understanding of contemporary Chinese society and a never seen before view of Beijing. Sometimes serious other times hilarious.
A chance to experience Beijing through the eyes of real Beijingers
Jia Wei is the tour guide and his music is the guiding principle. East meets West, tradition versus modernity, against the background of an enormous metropolis and its colourful people. The film shows how difficult life is as a critical artist in China, what keeps him motivated and what his hopes are for the future.
Besides Jia Wei's vision on China, the film features his family and other hutong residents talking about the destruction and changes of their neighbourhood, we're going on nightly journeys with graffiti artists, exploring illegal exotic animal night markets, talk to recordshop owners and witness rare performances. We also meet the very entertaining Ijapa of Yin Sanr (and his 500+ turtles), rap pioneer MC Webber and the Purple Soul crew.
Setting of the film
The film is set in Beijing, a city of 21 million people bursting out of control. Crane machines dominate the skyline and IKEA and Apple stores are overrun by consumers. Old hutongs are broken down, tradition gives way to modernisation.
Since the start of the economic reforms, social status in China is depending on wealth and materialism. The population has the freedom to make their own choices, but the good opportunities in life are limited to groups belonging to a particular social or political network. China is becoming more unequal as it gets richer, with about a third of the country's wealth now concentrated in the hands of 1% of its citizens, according to new research. This causes social and economic pressure among young people. Under the surface there is a storm of discontent and disappointment with the government, but critical voices are barely heard.
In school they only teach you how to build the country. I chose to become a rebel, but I have my reasons (From the song Everything by Purple Soul)
Some sleep in underground passages. Some use government money to pay for their banquets (From the song Beijing Evening News by Yin Sanr)
Why I need your help
Despite the fact that all the footage is already shot on location in Beijing, I need your help to finish the project. Last summer I quit my job and travelled to Beijing without any funding to shoot the documentary. Jia Wei's vision on China, passion and music made me want to do this documentary. His story needs to be told so people will know what’s it like to be an artist in China who dares to criticize the system.
I got some help from journalist friends who helped with the translation during the interviews. The shoot was very successful and I got a ton of good and interesting material. Two months and about 60 hours of material later I’m back in Amsterdam and exited to finish the film.
I need to hire translators to translate and subtitle the material. Also during the editing-process I need to work together with a Chinese editor to get all the dialogues in the right place. After the editing I need to hire a professionals for postproduction like color corrections, creation of titles and sound engineering.
Team is a big word for this project as you already probably figured out reading the text above. I'm (Raymond) a filmmaker from Amsterdam with a huge passion for rapmusic and China. I just had to make this film with or without any help or funding. I have a Masters degree in Film and made a lot of short documentaries about Dutch and international rap artists, projects for NGO's like Oxfam in East-Africa (also about rap artists) and won the MTV Black Soil talent award for a short film about hiphop in Africa. I have been to China many times the last few years and got introduced to the music of Yin Sanr by some friends. Making Beijing Rebels is the perfect combination of my two passions.
Luckily I got some help from a few friends in Beijing who helped me out translating my questions during interviews, borrowing equipment, take pictures and have the occasional cold Tsingtao beer with me.
Joanna Chiu: is China correspondent for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa). She additionally provides commentary and on-the-ground reporting for broadcast outlets including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, CTV, Radio France Internationale and NPR.
Yue Wang: Journalism student and all around positive hands-on girl.
Xiao Wei: She's been a great help translating the song lyrics before the shoot
Naomi Goddard: Beijing and London based photographer
Rewards for investors
Besides giving an oppressed artist the chance to get international exposure and showing the world what artists have to endure in China, there are some other cool rewards as well. From hotpot dinners and screenings in Amsterdam to multiday tours through Beijing. From high quality prints of Beijing to very exclusive Purple Soul T-shirts (see picture below where Jia Wei and the crew are wearing them).
Risks and challenges
I'm very confident that Beijing Rebels will be brought to completion. The material is already shot on location and it turned out to be a very interesting story. All the funding will go to the people who help me finish this project. None of the funding will go to me for the time I invest. This is a project of passion.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)