Wasted Orient is a pretty raw film. Kevin Fritz’ only directorial venture to date, Wasted Orient documents the first tour of struggling Chinese punk rock band Joyside. Struggling is an understatement, although they have a growing fanbase, a manager and the ‘punk’ attitude, the members of Joyside live in a poor section of Beijing, after moving there to start a band.
Lives riddled with alcohol, tobacco and a violent temperament Bian, Yang, Fan, Liu and Xin board a train and travel to various provinces of China in their break-through tour. We are given snippets about their life, their thoughts and their punk dreams along the way. It is often confusing whether what we are seeing is deluded wannabes playing up to the camera or a group of people hellbent on their dreams and pressing through regardless of their hardships.
The film is shot almost entirely handheld, with moments of stability found on the friendly compounds of noodle bars or fast food restaurants. We are given song sizes snippets of the band in action, a short 5 minutes or so where the editing power of Fritz and McCauley come to full bloom.
Wasted Orient, as with most good documentaries, relies only on the interaction between those on screen to tell the story, they make no attempt to narrate the movie but no attempt to hide Fritz, often speaking directly to him or vice versa.
I don’t know whether it’s because I empathise with the band, relating them to my own struggle in music, or whether Fritz is truly a great director, but Wasted Orient has ways of touching my heart, making me feel immense sorrow at the shortfalls of the band and showing me the reason I enjoy playing music. The fans, the rock and roll life style and a deep insight into Chinese youth culture, it’s all here.
“Rock and Roll in China is a Nightmare”