The first thing we thought when we saw the music video from GENER8ION and M.I.A. for their joint track, "The New International Sound Pt. II" was that it was another crowd dynamics simulation test along the lines of Dave Fothergill's CGI masterpiece, I've fallen, and I can't get up!But upon second glance, we were awe-struck: the 36,000 kids performing choreographed kung fu with perfectionist body control are 100% human.
Born in Belgium and living in Germany, the video's director, Inigo Westmeier, first came to meet the youths while filming his 2012 documentary, Drachenmädchen. Through bombastic imagery, the film tells the story of three girls, out of the 36,000 students living at Shaoling Tagou, China's biggest kung fu school. Every morning at 6 AM, the junior martial artists start up in their red tracksuits, marked by strict rules, discipline, and performance training everyday in order eventually to belong to the fighting elite.
For "The New International Sound Pt. II" the artists acquired Westmeier's images to show the spectrum of the emotions of an adolescent Shaolin martial artist, from the physical and mental tension before fights, to the constant focus and determination required during practice, to frolicking informally with each other after training. In stark contrast are the conformities of school life, and the fates of their individual students, emphasized by Westmeier's impressive cross-cutting between close-ups and long shots.
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A version of this article originally appeared on The Creators Project Germany.