Big brother hears your music

HIPHOP-EXAMINATION: The rappers in the Chinese metropolis of Chongqing are characterized by government censorship.

Huser is a regular film critic in MODERN TIMES.
Published: 2020-01-02
SHORT MOVIE: Trapped in The City of a Thousand Mountains

David Verbeek (Netherlands, China)

Trapped in The City of a Thousand Mountains takes us to the hip-hop environment of the Chinese metropolis of Chongqing. Almost as a parallel to how the city grew big when it was merged with three surrounding cities three decades ago, hip-hop culture here has also recently expanded abruptly: first through the television program The Rap of China and then online. But hip-hop is an outspoken and often oppositional form of expression that does not necessarily have simple terms under the Chinese regime.

Big brother comes along

Last year, the authorities introduced a law against "promoting hip-hop culture" in the mass media. The regulations we hear about early in the film state, among other things, that "people who are rumored to have poor moral character should not speak publicly". A total of 120 songs have been blacklisted, according to one of the rappers in the film. However, the laws are not very clear on what is allowed to be expressed - an effective way to create a high degree of self-censorship in the practitioners. And around the city there are plenty of surveillance cameras, which gives a clear feeling that big brother is watching.

Hip-hop is an outspoken and often oppositional form of expression that is not necessarily
has simple conditions under the Chinese regime.

The film centers on three of Chongqing's rappers, and these three make up the film's narrative voices. In addition, it features observant scenes from the city's hip-hop environment, combined with impressionistic images of Chongqing. With their futuristic feel and the rather bleak music that accompanies them, the latter sequences do Trapped in The City of a Thousand Mountains for a kind of dystopian metropolitan symphony. But most of all it is a portrait of young people with a strong need for expression and an admirable belief in hip hop's potential for change.

I then signed the film at the festival Message to Man in St. Petersburg this fall, where it was awarded the prize for best card documentary in the international competition.

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Trapped in The City var subscribers of the month for January.

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