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A dazzling documentary about pop music in China’s Muslim-majority province

Life can get complicated in Xinjiang, the far-western Chinese province perhaps best known as the home of ethnic Uighurs, who are majority Muslim. As in neighboring Tibet, Beijing restricts traditional religious practice there and keeps the province largely shut off from the outside world. Stories of sometimes violent unrest trickle out as a steady influx of ethnic Hans (China's majority) transform the region's ancient make-up, maybe permanently.

Despite the intense media restrictions in Xinjiang, filmmaker Sameer Farooq traveled there recently to make a documentary about life for China's Uighurs in this time of change, uncertainty and identity crisis. As filmmakers often do when examining such big, complex subjects, he looks at them through the lens of something much simpler: in this case, pop music.

"The Silk Road of Pop," based on this two-minute trailer, appears to capture Xinjiang's stunning natural environment as well as its complex identity politics. It also allows far-away viewers to connect with the film's subjects on more universally familiar topics, such as love of music and youthful rebellion.

Via Shanghaiist, which flagged the trailer, here's the film's official synopsis:

On the distant northwest edge of China lies Xinjiang, a vast region of snow-capped mountains, barren deserts and gritty market cities. Here, along the ancient Silk Road, music is one of the hottest commodities: it is vibrant, infectious, and far-reaching, permeating every corner of the province. Yet, around the music lies a troubling reality. Engaged in an identity tug-of-war, the region’s main population — the Uyghur Muslims — are gradually watching their populations dwindle as they are engulfed by a predominant Han Chinese settlement. One of the very few documentaries to come out of Xinjiang, “The Silk Road of Pop” captures the challenges of a minority group in China and the explosive music scene which results.