Nominee, 2021 Academy Awards (Oscars):
International Feature Film
Director: Derek Kwok-cheung Tsang
Introduction by Sven of Kuleshov
As Nian (Zhou) prepares for her college entrance exam, she is targeted by her peers at school. Fate brings her together with small-time criminal Bei (Yee), but before they can retreat into a world of their own, they are dragged into a murder investigation that will change their lives forever.
In this romantic thriller, Derek Kwok-Cheung Tsang exposees the oppressive societal demands imposed on today’s youth.
Chinese screen idols Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee star in this blockbuster about a pair of star-crossed lovers: a brutally bullied high-school student and her unlikely protector, a teenage street thug in need of redemption.
Zhou Dongyu (as Chen Nian)
Born in Hebei, China in 1992, Zhou Dongyu graduated from the Performing Arts Department of Beijing Film Academy in 2011. Her debut in Zhang Yimou’s Love of the Hawthorn Tree (2010) garnered her both industry and public attention. For her performance in the film, she received the award for Best Actress at the 56th Valladolid International Film Festival, for Outstanding New Actress at the 14th China Huabiao Film Awards and for Best New Actress at the 20th Shanghai Film Critics Awards.
Jackson Yee (as Xiao Bei)
Jackson Yee is a distinguished singer and dancer from TFboys (aka The Fighting Boys), which is considered as the first homegrown boy band in China to become a global success. Yee made his debut feature film in Better Days (2019) at the age of eighteen.
Born in Hunan, China, in 2000, Yee was accepted into Beijing's prestigious Central Academy of Drama in 2018 after placing first and achieving the highest scores for both his college entrance examination and live audition.
Director Derek Kwok-cheung Tsang
Born in Hong Kong on November 8, 1979 and graduated from University of Toronto, Derek Kwok-cheung Tsang began working as an actor in Hong Kong and found himself in numerous film projects including Samson Chiu’s Golden Chicken (2002), Pang Brothers’ The Eye 2 (2004), Pang Ho Cheung’s AV (2005), Isabella (2006), Love off the Cuff (2017), Missbehavior (2019), Choi Dong-hoon’s The Thieves (2012), David Lam’s Z Storm (2014) and S Storm (2016).
Starting from 2010, Tsang also went on directing his own films and co-directed with Jimmy Wan for his directorial debut Lover’s Discourse and was nominated in 15th BIFF New Currents section and competed for the Best New Director award in 47th Taipei Golden Horse Awards and awarded for Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) in 6th Osaka Asian Film Festival.
Tsang’s debut as sole director, Soul Mate (2016) was critically acclaimed and earned him the Best Director Award at 2017 Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild and Best Director nomination at 53rd Golden Horse Awards, where Soul Mate (2016) received the unprecedented duo Best Leading Actress awards in Golden Horse Awards history. Soul Mate (2016) has also received the ABC Award at 12th Osaka Asian Film Festival, the Best Actress (Zhou Dongyu) and Film of Merit at 23rd Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, and Best Original Film Score at 36th Hong Kong Film Awards.
Tsang’s latest work, Better Days (2019) offers thought-provoking insights into the severe competition of National College Entrance Examination among nearly 10 million teenagers every year and national issues of school bullying. The film was selected into the Generation 14Plus section of the 69th Berlin International Film Festival and garnered US$220 million in China’s box office, making it into the top 10 highest- grossing films of the year.
Better Days (2019) has won over 55 awards out of over 85 nominations worldwide. Tsang became the first Hong Kong-born director to receive the nomination for International Feature Film at the Academy Awards. The film is the biggest winner at the 39th Hong Kong Film Awards, with 8 awards including top prizes for Best Film and Best Director out of 12 nominations. Tsang garnered Best Director awards at the 26th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards and Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild Awards 2019. Better Days (2019) also received the Special Jury Award (the second highest Award) at the 6th Snow Leopard Awards, Best Asian Film at the 2020 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA Awards), Golden Mulberry Award and Black Mulberry Award at the Far East Film Festival 22, and Audience Award at the 15th Osaka Asian Film Festival.