Silk Road of Pop
Dir. Sameer Farooq (in attendance) | Canada/China/Holland/Belgium 2012 | 53:00 | Mandarin and Uyghur with English subtitles | Canadian Premiere
Written by Milica Dodic
“What does it mean to be born into a politicized area?”
During the post-screening Q&A, Director Sameer Farooq suggests that this is the question his film poses to the audience. Although not explicitly asked, the feature documentary touches slightly on this issue. Presenting different genres of music that have come into the world of Xinjiang’s minority population, the filmmaker showcases the rockstars of the region and how their daily battles are being fought through music.
The subjects of the documentary are all very interesting, each with their own stories that ultimately relate back to the issue of tradition versus modernity. The audience gets to see into the life of the film’s main subject, Ay, an Uyghur Muslim woman who dresses and acts “differently” from the other women in the region. She is the epitome of the new generation of Uyghurs, struggling to find herself as a modern, young woman living in this dwindling population. Having to live in the small town of Kashgar by herself, away from her friends and family, her life portrays how the lack of jobs, and the growing Chinese population in Xinjiang, are impacting young Uyghurs. Music is her solace, as it is for many of us. The younger population turns to updated versions of traditional Uyghur music as a means of expressing themselves and the problems they face. As well, they try to adapt to the changing times by fusing more popular genres, such as pop and rap, with the old.
While the northwest part of China is currently engulfed in political turmoil, Farooq and his team never get to the deep-rooted issues surrounding this region’s population, as it would possibly put the film, as well as its subjects, at risk. Rather, the documentary focuses on the issue of what it means to blend the old with the new, while still maintaining one’s culture and identity.
Overall, this is an entertaining documentary that, as with any other documentary film, educates the audience about its subject. Now if only there could be an outpouring of these new versions of Uyghur music, then finally the rest of the world would be exposed to the many talented, vibrant people living along the historic Silk Road.