When we talk about Chinese cinema, megastars like Maggie Cheung or Chow Yun Fat immediately come to mind. But do we ever remember the extras acting in the background of every film we love? In this bittersweet dramatic feature, Derek Yee pays tribute to the thousands of Chinese young migrants who flock to Hengdian, the Hollywood of the East, to pursue their dream of “becoming somebody.” The story follows protagonist Peng (Wan Guopeng), who arrives at Hengdian with high hopes for his acting career, only to find a reality much harsher than that of his rural hometown.
The path to stardom is filled with uneasy laughter and joyful tears. As Peng encounters like-minded friends, the film moves from character to character to highlight each individual’s unique experience in Hengdian. The episodic depiction of these HengPiaos’ (migrant workers in Hengdian) everyday struggles poignantly reflects the fragility of dreams in contemporary China. Featuring extras that Yee handpicked from Hengdian and trained over the course of three years, I Am Somebody is truly Yee’s most passionate project to date. -BX