‘Better Days’ director hopes Oscar-nominated film evokes Chinese peers to deal with tough subjects

Derek Tsang, director of “Much better Times”, a Chinese passionate criminal offense movie, nominated for Best Global Characteristic Movie at the Oscars, is viewed on a reflection of a poster of foremost actress of the film Zhou Dongyu, just after job interview with Reuters, in Hong Kong, China April 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

April 15, 2021

By Joyce Zhou

HONG KONG (Reuters) – “Better Days” director Derek Tsang stated his Oscar-nominated movie could encourage other Chinese artists to go after difficult subject areas despite the troubles in obtaining performs past censors in China.

Adapted from Jiu Yuexi’s novel “Young and Beautiful”, the motion picture tells the story of a bullied schoolgirl who develops a solid bond with a boy when they get caught up in a murder circumstance. The passionate criminal offense film, shot in mainland China and the initial by a Hong Kong-born director to obtain an Oscar nomination, is shortlisted in the very best global function movie class.

Hong Kong Television audiences won’t be equipped to look at a gain in serious time, while, mainly because cost-free-to-air broadcaster TVB won’t air the Academy Awards for the initially time in extra than 50 years. TVB, which has broadcast the Oscars every single yr due to the fact 1969, said it won’t have the ceremony this yr for “commercial reasons”.

Tsang believes censors gave his motion picture the inexperienced gentle “because everybody thinks the film carries a very optimistic message and (bullying is) a thing that requires to be mentioned,” he told Reuters in an job interview.

Creative freedoms have narrowed in modern years in China, in which authorities can be uncomfortable with topics that portray factors of culture as a lot less than harmonious.

When there was no “clear path” on how to move censorship necessities, it was essential for filmmakers and other artists to go after subjects they considered in, Tsang reported.

“Passion will have you a pretty prolonged distance,” he claimed.

“One of the most encouraging opinions that I’ve heard from fellow filmmakers is … (that) our movie influenced them … that we try to deal with some thing which is challenging instead of deciding upon an much easier path.”

“Better Days”, unveiled in Oct 2019 in China and a month afterwards in the United States and other international locations, has so considerably grossed more than $200 million at the box business office throughout the world.


The selection not to air the Oscars has stoked considerations about dwindling freedoms in Hong Kong, which has taken an authoritarian path since China imposed a sweeping national protection legislation final calendar year in reaction to the financial hub’s professional-democracy protests of 2019.

Tsang explained he was “disappointed” the Oscars would not be broadcast in Hong Kong, but “guessed” the choice was created thanks to coronavirus-similar fears that the exhibit may well go virtual or even be cancelled.

China won’t have the Oscars this 12 months either, with nationalists criticising Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao, whose “Nomadland” gained a number of nominations and won most effective film at Britain’s BAFTA awards. Zhao has insulted China in comments in the previous, posters on Chinese social media have said.

One more delicate nomination for China is Norwegian director Anders Hammer’s limited documentary “Do Not Split”, about Hong Kong’s 2019 protests.

In signals of a harder ecosystem this year for film and other get the job done, Hong Kong cinemas pulled protest documentary “Inside the Crimson Brick Wall” by nameless area filmmakers, a college cancelled a push pictures exhibition, and a shortly-to-open up contemporary art museum said it will make it possible for the police’s new countrywide security device to vet its collections.

Hong Kong authorities say the former British colony’s legal rights and freedoms are intact and it retains a substantial diploma of autonomy from Beijing, but that China’s national safety is a red line.

The govt did not straight away respond to a request for remark on the Oscars and the worries about artistic freedoms.

Asked about the effects of what quite a few say is a rapidly shrinking area for dissent on Hong Kong’s at the time-vaunted film field, Tsang stated artists still have lots of stories to tell and he was optimistic about the industry’s foreseeable future.

One particular of his next jobs will concentration on the plight of refugees from throughout South Asia in Hong Kong, who deal with discrimination, housing troubles and bureaucratic hurdles avoiding many from pulling on their own out of poverty.

“As extensive as there are people today in Hong Kong, there are heading to be great tales,” Tsang stated.

“I don’t feel one little bit that Hong Kong cinema is dead.”

(Reporting by Joyce Zhou Supplemental reporting by Hong Kong newsroom Writing by Marius Zaharia Editing by Tom Hogue)