We Were SMART Screening and Q&A


Reel Asian is excited to partner with the University of Toronto’s McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology to present a special online screening of We Were SMART by director Yifan Li during a limited 24 hour watch window between February 18 at 7pm ET to February 19 at 7pm ET. This joint event is organized by members of the McLuhan Centre’s Contemporary China Through Media Studies Working Group.

Tickets are free and donations are greatly appreciated. All donations help us get to our 25th Anniversary of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival!

We Were SMART tells the stories of China’s Sha-ma-te (referred to as SMART). Based on in-depth interviews with migrant workers born in the 1990s and 2000s, this documentary film is the first to explore why younger migrant workers began expressing themselves through the outlandish fashion, makeup and hairstyles that characterized the sha-ma-te subculture.

The evolution, disappearance, and recent appropriation of the unique subculture are in parallel with changing social media platforms in China such as QQ and live streaming. The film’s restoration of the marginalized and misunderstood SMART community comments on the ecologies of digital platforms.

Director Yifan Li spent two years collecting 915 first-hand video recordings from former sha-ma-te members, as well as conducting full-length interviews with 78 of them. The film tackles larger sociological questions, including why SMART originated in the Pearl River Delta and how aesthetic freedom could be the starting point of all equality.

As a bonus, ticketholders will be able to access a 37-minute featurette produced as part of the YiXi series of artist talks, featuring director Yifan Li.

Live Q&A with artist and director Yifan Li

Register to join this free live Q&A to learn more about the film.

February 19, 12pm to 1:30pm ET

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