Western-style pop and rock first began appearing on the streets of Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar in the 1970s, but attempts by local musicians to create a sound along similar lines were initially compromised under the communist regime. Following the country’s break from the Soviet Union in 1991, music provided new means of expression for its first generation to grow up in a democratic society. With local audiences limited by Mongolia’s relatively small population, local bands began developing their own distinctive voices, exploring such issues as cultural and national identity and their place in a globalised world while integrating traditional methods of instrumentation such as overtone singing and horse-head fiddle-playing into their music.
The film explores the small but vibrant rock scene in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar (also called ‘UB’). It blends the story of one band creating original Mongolian rock with interviews from experts and Mongolian rock legends. Rock was a catalyst in the democratic revolution of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now, more than twenty years later, the first generation to grow up in this new society is making its own music. Unlike the generation before them, the new music makers grew up watching MTV and can access music from anywhere in the world in an instant. But these young Mongolians are defying the forces of globalization and using modern music to both explore and assert their own unique heritage. Like Mongolia at large, they are eager to be recognized beyond their borders, but without sacrificing their identity.
About The Project (By Lauren Knapp)
I was first drawn to Mongolia in 2007, while living in China. Along with a few friends, I took an overnight train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar for a 3 week-long trek. I was not prepared for what I found. Mongolia is a place like none other. Culturally, Mongolia is far from its neighbors, China and Russia. The landscape and can-do-anything attitude in the countryside give it a Wild West feel. The face of Ghengis Khan is everywhere – from vodka bottles to an enormous metal statue. And the music is evocative of the ancient and vast land. When I left Mongolia, having barely scratched the surface, I knew that it would call me back one day.
It wasn’t until almost five years later that I was able to return. I began working on LIVE FROM UB in the winter of 2011. With the support of a Fulbright-mtvU grant, I moved to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and immersed myself in the music scene. I spent the next 10 months meeting musicians, learning Mongolian language, attending concerts, and filming dozens of interviews with Mongolia’s top performers.
While I was a one-man band in Mongolia (videographer, producer, director, and editor), I was not alone. Countless people helped me throughout my project. I’d like to offer a special thanks to those who volunteered their time to translate, operate a second camera, and organize interviews in the Land of the Blue Sky.
When I returned to the United States in September of 2012, I began the long process of weeding through my 3TB of footage and crafting it into what has become the documentary film, LIVE FROMUB. I’m grateful to the many people who helped me throughout this post-production process, especially my community in Pittsburgh, PA.
About The Filmmaker
Lauren Knapp is a multimedia storyteller. With an academic background in anthropology and a professional background in journalism. She uses the documentary medium to merge both worlds.
After graduating from Grinnell College in 2006, Lauren spent a year teaching in Nanjing, China as Grinnell Corps Fellow. It was there that she discovered her passion for media while volunteering for a Chinese (English language) television show. Upon her return to the United States, she began working at the PBS NewsHour where she honed her skills as a journalist and was inducted into the demanding and dynamic world of television journalism. She was one of the first Reporters on staff to film, edit and produce her own videos – now common at the PBS NewsHour.
With a love for music, urge to focus on a long-term project, and keen interest in Mongolia (a place she briefly visited in 2007), she left Washington, DC for Ulaanbaatar in late 2011 with the support of a Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship. She later wished she’d timed her visit to start after the most brutal months of winter.
ISABELLE STROLLO, Assistant Editor
Isabelle Strollo is a picture editor and motion graphics artist for film and television based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since 2008 She is an adjunct faculty at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where she teaches film editing and production as well as broadcast graphics. She began her career as a camera assistant, working on productions for the White House Historical Society and National Geographic Television, as well as a host of commercial production companies. As an editor, She has worked on a variety of documentaries, narratives and educational projects.
DULGUUN BAYASGALAN, Associate Producer/Translator
With a degree in Art History from the University of British Columbia, Dulguun is keen on advancing the arts, especially film, in Mongolia. He discovered his love for music at an early age and has since extended his passions to literature and film. With an urge to create and promote the arts, Dulguun is currently working on a number of films and art-related projects.
FERNANDA ROSSI, Story Editor
Whether in a personal session, a workshop or through her writing, Fernanda Rossi supports and guides filmmakers with proven methodologies in the creation and improvement of rough cuts, fundraising trailers, synopses, treatments, scripts and pitches. She has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and work samples, including two Academy Award®nominees.
This film has been funded in part by:
• Fulbright mtv-U Fellowship
• Pittsburgh Filmmakers First Works Grant
• The Pittsburgh Foundation
• Over 168 individual donors via Indiegogo