Posts Tagged ‘music’

American Idol as… Underground Cinema?

Monday, September 7th, 2009
Jian Yi filming Super, Girls!

Jian Yi behind the scenes of Super, Girls!

Recent d(igital)-generation films are considered “underground” not only due to subject matter. More often than not their production methodology helps define their independence. This is part of a series looking behind the scenes of Digital Underground in the People’s Republic.

It’s true that one standing trope of “underground” Chinese films is a fascination with life on the margins. These are the folks who don’t get any screen time in glossy studio pics – ethnic populations, village life, orphans, petty criminals, drug addicts, homeless migrants, and the list goes on. So it’s more than a little surprising to come across an underground film that takes ten average Chinese female teenagers as its subject. Add to that the inclusion of the wildly popular Chinese version of American Idol, and the choice of subject matter is even more startling.

But this is exactly what Jian Yi, director of the documentary Super, Girls!, did. He figured that the margins weren’t the only populations ignored in mainstream cinema. So Jian Yi picked up his digital camera and, without authorization from the Chinese government or the sponsoring television station for that matter, headed down to the regional auditions for the television contest Super Girl.


Get Out Your Microphones: Super, Girls! Coming to Brooklyn!

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Critically acclaimed earlier this year at MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, Super, Girls! is back for an encore performance in New York City. Jian Yi’s probing documentary into China’s version of DiY reality TV celebrity culture will have multiple screenings at BAM on Wednesday April 28 (the 6:50 pm show will feature a special guest Q&A).

The Chinese equivalent of ‘American Idol,’ the ‘Super Girls Singing Contest’ spawned an unprecedented pop culture phenomenon. Drawing over 400 million viewers, the show’s runaway popularity spurred the Chinese government to ban it after only two seasons.

The film provides unparalleled, intimate access into the contestants’ lives over several months. Through candid interviews and footage of nail-biting auditions and competitions, Super, Girls! offers a fascinating look inside what the Chinese media have dubbed ‘The Lost Generation’ and their startling takes on sexuality and success in the new China.

The film received a glowing review by Ronnie Scheib in Variety, who does a great job summarizing the film’s story and background:

“Super, Girls!,” Jian Yi’s humdinger of a docu, follows a handful of young women auditioning for the 2006 edition of the vastly popular, soon-to-be-banned Super Girl contest, the Chinese equivalent of “American Idol.” Offering a slew of artless sociopolitical insights about the new generation of post-capitalist youth (out of the mouths of babes), the pic proves as entertaining as it is revelatory, thanks to the girls’ openness and extraordinary exuberance. Indeed their energy shanghais the film, creating a casual, unforced intimacy quite distinct from the ponderous head-shaking of many recent China pulse-takers.

The Super Girl singing contest exploded as an overnight cultural phenomenon, quickly becoming the most-watched telecast in the country’s history. The 2005 winner, Li Yuchun, garnered 3.5 million cell-phone votes, and all the top contenders morphed into instant superstars — adored by merchandisers, the media and hordes of zealous fans, their photos emblazoned on billboards and TV screens caught by Jian’s clandestine camera.

Read Scheib’s full review here. And a more in-depth review by Megan Horvath at the British documentary website dfg docs.

Don’t wait! Order your tickets now. And then sit back and enjoy this clip of the first Super Girl champion, Li Yuchun, as she wows the crowd:

Super, Girls! is available for institutional purchase and exhibition through the dGenerate Films catalog.