DAZED & CONFUSED x DIESEL present a documentary film about chinese underground comic collective “CULT YOUTH,” by beijing-based indie directors COCO WANG & MI YOU
NeochaEDGE readers know how much we love China’s underground comic scene, so it gives us great pleasure to share a recently released DAZED & CONFUSED x DIESEL documentary about our good friends, the renowned Beijing-based comic collective “Cult Youth.”
The film is an insider’s view of China’s comic scene and follows five “Cult Youth” members: Chairman Ca, Da Shuan-er, Moku Mok, Twoqee Guo, and Bini. Interlaced with animation, the documentary depicts the lives, works, and personalities of these struggling and engaging creators. Set against the background of the tightly-regulated publishing industry in China, Cult Youth celebrates the benefits of shared, independent creativity.
The film was co-directed by Coco Wang (aka: Ke Wang) and Mi You, with cinematography by Ning Ma, sound mixing by Lu Qu, and animation by Yebo Xu and Zimei Song. Listen closely throughout for tracks by Beijing indie-rock staple band Carsick Cars (who recently broke-up) and the godfather of 8-bit electronic music in China, Sulumi.
Below the video, be sure to check out an unedited / full version of a Dazed & Confused interview with co-director Mi You, as well as some photographs taken during the shooting of the film.
Bravo to Dazed & Confused and Diesel. They’ve done a great job with the “New Voices” series. As a creative agency specializing in this very kind of thing, we applaud and support their efforts to engage the local creative community in creating compelling branded content.
For more comics on NeochaEDGE, link here.
For more film on NeochaEDGE, link here. /// AjS
DAZED & CONFUSED interview with co-director Mi You ///
When and where did you first come up with the idea to make a film about these artists?
I know about them from college and were amazed by their energy, the idea of having more people get to know them formed back then.
Why do you think the work of the Cult Youth artists is so important?
Not only do I find their work brutally honest in the themes they deal with, the daze and confusion of life, order of society, uncertainty toward future, love etc., which are still largely under-represented in China, but also the technique they adopt in building the narratives, seemingly reckless yet packed with mockery and emotion, is critical in getting their message across.
Do you think that the repressive culture from which these comics emerge is actually beneficial, in a way, to the work of artists like Cult Youth? Or do you hold that it’s an entirely bad thing?
That’s a hard one. There are probably different levels of repressive culture and we have to yet see where we are and where we are moving into. In a way, Cult Youth represents a certain “rebel with a cause”, and part of that we may attribute to the repressive culture they grow up in. But I wouldn’t say something so absolute as the culture is beneficial or bad.
Were you already a fan of Cult Youth’s comics, or did you discover their work as part of the process of making the film?
As said, I saw some of their works in college and sometimes it did come across as nonsense or undecipherable. Reading the comics again and discussing it with the artists offered many new perspectives and I got to understand the psyche behind even the nonsense and the undecipherable!
Tell us a bit about the process of filming the documentary. How long were you in Beijing making it? Any funny stories?
We prepared well with scene breakdowns and shooting plan, it took 2 smooth days in the artists’ offices and homes for the interview, and 1 day out on Beijing street for the moody, exterior shots.
Funny stories? There were A LOT of laughing. Also the film is meant to be funny in an awkward way. I remember I wanted to do a goofy scene where a hand in black glove creeps in and writes a title card (like in silent movies, or Thing in the Adams Family, you know), the “hand stunt” and I enjoyed playing with black gloves so much that we ended up spending a good twenty minutes doing an act of hand stunts.
The animation in the film gives it a really wonderful visual energy. Was using animation a part of your plan from the outset? How did it come about?
That’s true, we planned it from the very beginning and when designing the scenes, I already had an idea of how to fit in the animation and how it might resonate with or counteract to our protagonists. We took comic works from Cult Youth artists and made them into animation–rather mechanical movement patterns, but it works well with the rough look of the comics. Sometimes we have to cut the foreground from the background and it has this interesting two dimension going three dimension look. But it’s not exactly “Mofo”, which is recently getting hot.
How many people were involved in making the film? And what kind of equipment did you use?
Other than myself, director and editor, there’s one line producer, one cameraman, one sound designer, and two animators. We used a Sony Z1C, and a consumer-end Canon HDV as camera B.
Are there any films or particular directors who have been influential over your style of filmmaking?
I was watching Grindhouse just before–don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the kind of movie I love or would want to make, but I borrowed a little bit of that roughness. Cult Youth artists bleed B-Movies, and I wanted to follow the same line.
What’s your background in film? Is Cult Youth your directorial debut, or have you made loads of other things already? Forgive my ignorance here, if so.
I started out in senior high school with mini DV camcorder to make videos. In college I worked as assistant to a major Chinese film director, Lu Chuan, in preproduction and production of a Chinese WWII film. It was great but hard training, after that I decided for myself that I would like to go back to smaller scale projects where I can use my full faculties.
There is so much smoking in this documentary! It’s like eight minutes of cool Chinese people smoking! Is this just an accurate reflection of the smoke-filled Chinese comics sub-culture, or just China in general, or are you like a kind of smoking fetishist?
Excuse me, I meant no offense! China is smoke-filled, the emerging creative (sub)class especially so. My protagonists felt they needed it to be their natural selves and I had to go with that.
Moku Mok ///
Chairman Ca ///
Cult Youth ///
Cult Youth ///
Cult Youth ///
Coco Wang, Chairman Ca, and Mi You ///
Cult Youth ///