Updated (May 25, 2018): The following interview originally took place in March 2018. We’ve updated the screening and ticket information at the bottom of the article ahead of the film’s June 2nd, 2018 screening as part of this year’s Beijing Indie Short Film Festival.
EastIndie: So, you’ve made a documentary about beatboxing in China. For those who aren’t familiar with beatboxing, what is it and how did you get involved in it?
Dmitrii Anikeev: It’s a new way to make music and sounds without instruments using only your mouth and voice. I first discovered beatboxing in 2009, when someone showed me how it was done. I was shocked and amazed at the same time. From that moment on, it has been an important part of my life.
EI: Where did the idea to make the documentary come from?
Gleb Torubarov: It was just one of many conversations Dmitrii and I had. Dmitrii said that he was teaching beatboxing to a boy (Li Erkun) in Chengdu, in whom he saw something of himself. He wanted to inspire not only the boy, but also other people, by making a documentary. With the support of his friend Luo Xing—a videographer he knew—Dmitrii suggested that I direct and edit while he provided support with financing and other arrangements. So, I happily agreed.
EI: How long did it take to produce the project?
DA: It took about nine months from the first idea of making a documentary until it was uploaded on YouTube. For me it was an awesome process. I’ve never done anything like this before.
EI: How did approach starting to make the film?
GT: Documentaries can be tricky. If you’re doing an honest documentary—without trying to make things up or force people to do something for the camera—you won’t know what you’re really getting into. The only way for us to find out whether we might get somewhere was to start with an interview, so we interviewed Dmitrii’s student Li Erkun in April 2017. That interview gave us insight into some of Erkun’s beatbox idols, including Zhang Zhe and Ah Xin.
We didn’t tell him he was going to meet a famous beatboxer.
EI: A big part of the film centers on Dmitrii’s plan to bring beatboxing star Ah Xin to Chengdu, so Li Erkun could meet one of his heroes in person. How did this all come about?
GT: Luckily, Dmitrii knew Ah Xin. The visit was supposed to be a surprise for Li Erkun—we didn’t tell him he was going to meet a famous beatboxer.
DA: Yeah, actually, the most stressful part of the whole thing was not knowing if Li Erkun was going to show up for his lesson when Ah Xin was in Chengdu (he was there for only two days). It had happened before, so I stressed about this situation, but I couldn’t spoil the surprise by saying anything.
EI: What was the most exciting moment for you in making this film?
GT: Of course, seeing the meeting between Ah Xin and Li Erkun. I think everyone loved this moment. Production-wise, it was also really exciting for me seeing the story come together. Working on short fiction films I get this feeling at the stage of polishing the screenplay, but with documentaries such a feeling comes later in the post-production process—it’s different.
EI: What was the most difficult aspect of the project?
GT: As a director and editor, the most challenging part was to stay away from ‘cheap’ visuals and techniques of pulling emotional strings. Li Erkun is a boy with disabilities, but I did not want to have any shots of the wheelchair alone or tilting shots from his legs up—for me it’s artificial and not important. I wanted to tell a story about Dmitrii and Erkun, not a story about Dmitrii and Erkun, a boy with disabilities. It was the hardest goal to achieve, but I maintain that it was accomplished, and the story we told was real and sincere.
EI: What are your plans for Bound in Beat now that the film has been completed?
GT: It has already been released on YouTube, got about two million views online in China, and was broadcasted on a Russian TV channel. Despite the fact that anyone can see the film online, we’re still trying our luck with some film festivals.
It’s a touching story of friendship, belonging, dreams, and constant improvement—anyone can relate to that.
EI: Do you have any plans to expand on the project or do you want to move on to other work?
GT: To be honest, for me, beatboxing was the least interesting part of this project. If you replaced beatboxing with singing, Kun opera, or whatever, it wouldn’t change the point of the film. Do I want to work on another project involving beatboxing? “Anything different is good,” but again, if within the beatboxing scene I found a story of people I would like others to discover, I wouldn’t say, “No”.
EI: What has the response to the film been like so far?
GT: I haven’t met a single person who didn’t like it. For the beatboxing audience, it’s a very special film, since the media often overlooks them. For ordinary people it’s a touching story of friendship, belonging, dreams, and constant improvement—anyone can relate to that. Looking at the comments on YouTube you can see it leaves only warm feelings inside of the audience.
EI: Ultimately, what do you hope people take away from seeing the film?
GT: I want this story to inspire people to follow their dreams, to be kind to others, and to continue self-development no matter what. I wish more people would support others without thinking about profit or benefit. I also hope the film will motivate people to create a better world, whether it’s for two people, a community, or more.
EI: Finally, what are you planning to work on next?
DA: I have an idea for a project in which I’ll try to discover how beatboxing can help people with stuttering—I think beatboxing can be used as a therapy for people with this problem. I’m still working on the concept.
GT: I’d also like to make another short fiction film before June. Right now, I’m working on the screenplay.
Updated (May 25, 2018): Bound in Beat will be screening on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 as part of this year’s Beijing Indie Short Film Festival at Camera Stylo (64 Dongsishiyitiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing 北京东城区东四十一条64号). Get your tickets here.
The producer and the director would also like to thank the following people for their hard work and for believing in the project and the impact it could have on others: Luo Xing, Liu Xin, Anna Pisareva, Sergey Rasskazchikov, Ah Xin, He Bin, Fang Shan, Zhang Yujie, Florian Wong, Dionisie Manariov, Wang Xin, and everyone else who helped out.