MEDIA ALERT – Wednesday, May 28
Mongolian hip hop DVD launches in Melbourne with party and charity auction
“Hip hop originated in Mongolia.”
Or so claims Bayarmagnai, an elderly traditional musician and one of the stars from the Mongolian Bling DVD, which launches in Melbourne on Wednesday June 4.
The feature length documentary delves into traditions, history, western influence, music, culture and the search for identity of the country’s youth. In essence, it asks, “What does it mean to be Mongolian in the 21st Century?”
The question is explored through the personal stories of three Mongolian rappers:
Gennie, the country’s first female rapper who is creating her debut album,
Quiza, a rap superstar who is blending traditional music with hip hop,
Gee, an emerging gangster rapper from the slums of the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Along the way, we meet a colourful supporting cast including a shaman, a music professor, traditional musicians, a retired Socialist music censor and Mongolians living both rural and urbanised lives. Together they paint a picture of modern Mongolia and how hip hop and western culture is influencing their ancient lifestyle.
Since premiering nearly two years ago, screenings of the film have sold out at festivals and cinemas in Australia, Europe, North and South America, throughout Asia and in Mongolia. It has screened on the ABC, Al Jazeera and on Cathay Pacific flights. The DVD is the last stage of the eight-year project.
“It’s amazing to finally be at the end of the adventure,” says the film’s writer and director, Benj Binks. “We’ve had incredible backing, from FilmVic, Screen Australia and the ABC, but also from an incredible group of supporters who have followed and funded us to make the film possible. I’m really looking forward to celebrating the project with them here in Melbourne where it all began.”
Along with the selling of the DVD and posters, there’ll be giveaways and an auction to raise money for Give a Ger, an initiative by the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation that provides traditional felt tents to homeless Mongolians. Items up for auction include books by Tim Cope and Tom Doig, a painting by Mongolian artist, Heesco, a traditional home-cooked Mongolian meal, the DVD and Mongolian vodka.
Wednesday, June 4. 6pm – 10pm
Loop. 23 Meyers Place, Melbourne
Charity auction @ 7:30pm
Media inquiries – contact
Writer | Director
Mobile: 0414 230 047
Press Kit (12MB) – mongolianbling.com/Press_Kit.zip
Character high res shots (34MB. Please credit Mongolian Bling) – mongolianbling.com/photos/Characters.zip
Team Bling high res shots (46MB. Please credit Mongolian Bling) – mongolianbling.com/photos/TeamBling.zip
Songs (22MB) – mongolianbling.com/Songs.zip
It was 4:45pm on Saturday, 6th July and I was finally heading to the Mongolian premiere of Mongolian Bling. The skies were threatening to explode with rain but nothing could spoil my mood. I’d waited for this moment for years. In fact, the screening was so important to me, that I was feeling anxious.
“What if no one comes?” I was thinking as I walked down the street. “What if people don’t like it?” I’d received feedback from audiences and critics from all over the world and while it was generally positive, it was the Mongolians’ thoughts that carried the most weight for me. If they felt the film correctly represented Ulaanbaatar in this day and age, then I’d feel like I’d succeeded. I didn’t even want to think how I would feel if they didn’t like the film.
Movie aside, we’d done all we could to prepare for the day. I’d spent two weeks appearing on TV shows, talking live on radio stations and having interviews with newspapers and magazines. I’d even managed to convince APU, a local alcohol company, to organise an after party. All I could do now was sit back and enjoy the moment.
I always believed that if no one screened Mongolian Bling, the Mongolians would.
However, when we completed the film last year, Yesukhei approached the two main cinemas in Ulaanbaatar and was instantly turned away. They saw the film as ‘financially unviable’. We were competing against Harry Potter and The Fast and Furious 7 or something and the cinemas simply weren’t convinced anyone would come.
Determined to get it to the public, I went to Ulaanbaatar in April this year and managed to get a screening verbally approved by Urguu Cinema. They um-ed and ar-ed then told me to “come in tomorrow” for a week. Nothing eventuated but in the meantime I succeeded in getting a meeting with the manager of the other cinema, Tengis. We chatted and he agreed to screen the film on Saturday July 6 at 5:30pm. Nothing was signed but I tend to be an unreasonably optimistic person so I had a good feeling about it. Read the full post »
As the credits rolled on Mongolian Bling’s screening in Beijing, a young man approached me, thanked me for the film and mentioned that his mother would like to speak to me. I’d been asked to clear the area so that we could set up for Quiza’s concert but he insisted and I turned around to see a smiling Mongolian woman making her way thru the crowd on crutches.
“That was excellent!” she exclaimed as she pushed her way to the front of the gathering people, “We must show my husband.”
Her name was Oyunchimeg and her husband, it turned out, was the Mongolian Ambassador to China. “He’s sorry he can’t make it,” she told me as Quiza started to rap onstage.
I’ve been coming to China since 2003. Each time I’ve returned, the city has weaved its oriental magic and stirred something inside me. I’ve be lured by winding backstreets, distracted by exotic smells and wooed by the banter, hustle and chaos of the city. But this time I felt nothing.
At the end of February, I left Australia.
I had a pocket full of one-way flights to film festivals, music festivals, independent cinemas and community halls around the world. After six years of making Mongolian Bling, I was looking forward to sharing it with audiences in so many places. With no full time work and some savings, it was great to be able to tag along with the film.
The first stop was New York. Read the full post »
D. Enkhtaivan died yesterday.
Many young Mongolians will know him as MCIT, member of the hip hop group War and Peace.
Others will know him as a talented photographer.
I know him as one of the stars of Mongolian Bling, Gennie’s producer and the godfather of Mongolian hip hop.
I met Enkhtaivan in 2006 whilst researching the film. In a studio deep inside a Soviet office block, we sat down for what I thought would be a brief chat. Three hours later I was still discovering the world of Enkhtaivan and Mongolia’s hip hop history.
Enkhtaivan grew up in Chingeltei, a ger district in the north of Ulaanbaatar. He dreamt of being a pilot and collected magazines and journals about planes. However he struggled at school and one day at a medical check up, he discovered that his eyesight was bad.
“That is why my grades got worse; I couldn’t see well from the back of the class and couldn’t understand the subject. That’s when my dream to become a pilot fell apart.”
It’s been two weeks since the Melbourne Premiere of Mongolian Bling and I’m still on a high.
The day was perfect.
At lunchtime the main crew (minus Nacho, Tom and Heesco) got together for lunch and some drinks. It was great to have everyone in the same room to celebrate the completion of the film and the local screening. After many hugs and cheers we made our way down to Federation Square.
Tsogo is a one of the stars of the film but his world contains very little “bling”.
Tsogo has been doing it rough, living on the streets and in shelters for years. He has tried to get work in many places around Mongolia however without an identity card, employees are reluctant to take him on.
In early 2010, Tsogo was living at a rubbish dump with his wife and their two children. They had fashioned a home out of a bed frame, plastic sheets and blankets. Living in these conditions, he and his family would make money by collecting recyclables. Tsogo earned about three dollars a day.
Tons of great coverage is happening with Mongolian Bling and audiences are showing the love. Benj scored an interview on Melbourne’s PBS106.7FM. In case you missed it, have a listen:
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