Dear Gossips, 

Oscar voting this year begins a week tomorrow as Academy members will have five days to make their selections – and as we’ve been saying, in most of the major categories, the races are totally unpredictable. The way I see it, there are only two Oscars that seem locked at this point: Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor and Another Round for Best International Feature Film. The fact that Thomas Vinterberg was included among the list of Best Director nominees pretty much seals it. Check out Sarah’s review of Another Round at TIFF here


As Sarah wrote recently in a post about Amanda Seyfried’s Oscar nomination, for most of the nominees, the nomination is actually the win. Nominations open doors, establishing, per Sarah, “the perception that this person is worth investing in, the closest thing to a “sure bet” you can get in an industry that is basically legalised gambling”. 

So for Derek Tsang, who directed the Best International Feature Film Oscar nominee Better Days, representing Hong Kong, one of the surprise contenders in the category, this is 100% all-gain, no loss. 

Better Days is a film about high school bullying and the pressure placed upon students in the Chinese education system. It was the “world’s top-grossing film” the week it was released, going on to basically sweep the Hong Kong Film Awards. And now Derek Tsang is the first Hong Kong-born director to be nominated for an Academy Award. 


While he is now based in Hong Kong though, Derek actually grew up in Vancouver and graduated from the University of Toronto. So his artistic perspective has been shaped by both cultures and you can see it in Better Days – a specific story about a Chinese girl’s high school trauma that is universally accessible no matter where you’re watching from. 


His next project is about South Asian refugees living in Hong Kong and, frankly, this is not a subject that a certain segment of the Chinese population would have that much time for. People of colour can also be racist, can also carry bias, be exclusionary. But Derek represents a new generation of Chinese filmmakers who are pushing for more inclusion and representation in their own communities. 


I interviewed Derek yesterday for etalk. He told me that he is indeed getting a lot more calls, is taking a lot of meetings, from people outside of the East Asian film industry, specifically because of the increased interest coming out of his Oscar nomination. He and Better Days are being featured at an American Cinematheque virtual event tonight: 

Better Days is currently available for digital rental on iTunes and Amazon. If you watch it, and you haven’t yet been introduced to her work, get ready for Zhou Dong Yu in the lead. She’s one of the most acclaimed and popular Chinese actresses working today and her performance in this film will destroy you. 

Yours in gossip,