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‘Better Days’ Director Derek Tsang Lands in World Cinema Spotlight

Hong Kong actor-director Derek Kwok-cheung Tsang has recently found himself in the spotlight of the world of cinema, but for the wrong reason.

Tsang will be joining a Hong Kong filmmakers panel at FilMart on Thursday with Sunny Chan (“Man on the Dragon”) and Pang Ho-cheung (“Love in a Puff”).

The 39-year-old filmmaker was expecting a world premiere of his second full-length drama feature as a director, Hong Kong-Chinese co-production “Better Days,” at the recent Berlin Film Festival, but it was pulled just days before its scheduled bow. Later in the festival, Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” was withdrawn from its Berlin bow. The events sparked speculation on how China is tightening its grip on censorship and creativity.

“Better Days” was reportedly pulled because it did not obtain permits from the mainland Chinese authorities required to travel to international film festivals.

The son of star Eric Tsang, Derek once told the media that his passion for the cinematic art was not fully developed until he was 15. He began his showbiz career as an actor in 2003, and launched his career as a helmer in 2010, co-directing romantic drama “Lover’s Discourse.” Unlike other young film directors who focus on Hong Kong stories and making films locally, Tsang worked mostly in mainland China. His full-length feature as a solo director debuted in 2016 with the acclaimed “Soul Mate,” a drama revolving the friendship and secrets between two women. The film earned him nominations for best director and best new director at the Hong Kong Film Awards and best Hong Kong/Taiwan director at the 8th China Film Director’s Guild Awards.

The success gave Tsang a lot of hope for the Chinese film industry. He told the media in 2017 that the rapid growth of the China market has opened doors to young Hong Kong filmmakers as big name directors can do big-budget movies on the mainland, giving room to new directors to work on smaller films.

Only Tsang’s next career moves will show whether his views on the China film biz have changed after the withdrawal of “Better Days” from Berlin.

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