MarchFourth Marching Band in China

In May of 2013, MarchFourth Marching Band was honored to do a US State Department cultural exchange tour in China, sponsored jointly by the United States Embassy in Beijing, SIAS International University, SIAS Foundation, and Government of Henan China Cultural Affairs. This film traces the band's path through Henan, a relatively remote province of China often referred to as the 'Cradle of Chinese Civilization', as they present an American musical experience in concerts, workshops, parades and civic events, promoting peace and goodwill through art and the common language of music. The freaky and urban MarchFourth juxtaposed against Henan's traditionally more rural community not only reflects an unusual slice of modern Sino-American relations, but also provides a unique glimpse into a part of China that most Americans don't see.

  • Kevin Balmer
    MarchFourth Marching Band in Germany (2010)
  • Kevin Balmer
  • Faith Jennings
  • John Averill
    Key Cast
  • Richard Cawley
    Key Cast
  • Mary Gargett
    Key Cast
  • Warren Christensen
    Key Cast
  • Kevin Balmer
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 4 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 28, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Hollywood Theater (1 Screening Only - Early Version w/ Limited Promotion)
    Portland, OR
    December 1, 2013
Director Biography - Kevin Balmer

A long time resident of Portland, Oregon, Kevin has produced and directed video and short films for the past 9 years. While a student in Portland State University’s Urban and Regional Planning master’s program, he developed a body of work focused on creative culture and promoting artist visibility in the Pacific Northwest. His film production company, Diggable Monkey Productions, has produced subscription-based online educational courses for mixed media painter Kelly Rae Roberts, illustrator Lilla Rogers and internationally-acclaimed tribal belly dance instructor, Rachel Brice.

Kevin is also the in-house videographer for the 22-member musical touring act March Fourth Marching Band, as well as a part- time musician with the group. In 2010, he traveled with the band to Europe and produced their first documentary short, MarchFourth in Germany. Securing an official joint US/China cultural exchange grant in 2013, Kevin accompanied the band to Henan province to document his first feature film, MarchFourth Marching Band in China.

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Director Statement

The journey to China with MarchFourth was my first trip back to Asia in almost 20 years. It was a privilege and honor to travel over there as a cultural ambassador and to witness music used as a universal power tool for communication. Watching M4 eloquently deliver the goods with drums, brass and sassy dance was absolutely stunning! The unlikely alchemy between a little big band from Portland and the unsuspecting Chinese people of Henan, truly took everyone by surprise. Essentially, we had all the ingredients to produce great cinema.

The absurdist idea that we were even selected as representatives to go over there was not lost on the delegation. Then again, the idea that a group of musical ninjas like MarchFourth joy raging in China also somehow seemed delightfully perfect. We certainly took the role seriously, but made sure to add just the right touch of irreverence to "keep it real". By all accounts, our edgy presentation played extremely well to audiences not as familiar with the spiciness of this unique brand of musical bombast.

As a film maker, it's been a pleasure to work with this family project and on this very special story. I thank the insight of my co-producer and M4 manager Faith Jennings, who traded her spot on the roster so that I might bring the story home for everyone to witness. Ultimately, I hope this movie can stand as a record for something positive that's taken place in an otherwise tenuous environment for US foreign relations. Having personally just observed the impact of this band over there, I often wonder why we aren't seeding more positive vibes around the globe through music. If our end goal is to "strengthen relations", then I daresay we've long ago mastered the recipe.