WE WERE SMART
China | 2020 | 125min | Documentary
Director: LI Yifan
Executive Producer: LI Yifan
Producer: LIANG Jianhua, FENG Yu
Cinematographer: CHEN Wenhui
Editor: CHEN Wenhui
Art Director: WANG Wo, SUN Tongjie
Sound: WU Ya
Music: WANG Jing
Starring: LUO Fuxing
About the film
Circa 2008, a coterie of young migrant workers in China’s coastal factories developed a marginal subculture known for an idiosyncratic hairstyle. They call themselves “Sha Ma Te,” which is transliterated from the English word “SMART.” Amid the increasing popularity of the hyperbolic look online, “SMART” becomes a fashion trend and a symbol of counter-culture, pushing these worker-creators to a life turning point.
The “SMART” community has long been alienated by the mainstream culture and living with aphasia. By using in-depth interviews with the characters and found footage from their old cell phones, director Li was intended to empower the people and shed light on their subjectivity. From an intimate point of view, the documentary tells a harsh story of the young rural workers’ plight on the assembly line and their unique way of venting emotions. Further, it reflects the social contradictions behind the ephemeral SMART culture, leading discussions on human capital and rural-urban inequality.
Born in Wuhan in 1966, graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing in 1991, LI Yifan is known as a director and curator. His previous documentaries, including BEFORE THE FLOOD, CHRONICLE OF LONGWANG: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A CHINESE VILLAGE, won several international awards, such as the Wolfgang Prize of the Berlin Film Festival Youth Forum, the Robert and Frances Flaherty Prize of the YIDFF of Japan, and the Documentary Humanitarian Award of the HKIFF, as well as the IDFA Jan Vrijman Fund Film Fund Award in the Netherlands and the Swiss Sud est Film Fund Award.