1. Program
  2. /
  3. Film Series
  4. /
  5. From the Margins of China
  6. /
  7. We Were SMART


Li Yifan, China 2020, 125 Min., OV with English subs, digital

We Were SMART is an in-depth exploration of the once widely known, controversial and shunned SMART (a transliteration of the English word), a subculture which was created by young, rural migrant workers in China in the 2000s, and its subsequent silencing in the face of social pressure and government regulation. Highly characterized by exaggerated and colorful hairstyles and fashion, SMART quickly expanded into an influential subculture that embodied a strong sense of community and identity for young rural workers. Most of its members dropped out of school as teenagers and, following their parents’ paths, work in factories in East China. We Were SMART consists of hundreds of video clips directly filmed by the workers as they operate an assembly line and interviews of their own accounts. As such, it provides an authentic and powerful document of their struggle against alienation by political and industrial forces.