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    Chinese Film, Asian Actors and Directors Get Historic Oscar Nods

    The Academy Award nominations come amid rising anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States.

    A Chinese-language film and a China-born director, as well as several actors and another director of Asian descent, have something in common: They’ve all been nominated for Academy Awards this year.

    The 2019 teen drama “Better Days” has been nominated in the international feature film category, along with movies from Denmark, Romania, Tunisia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Directed by Hong Kong’s Tsang Kwok-cheung, also known as Derek Tsang, the movie is adapted from the online novel “In His Youth, In Her Beauty” and underscores the familiar topic of school bullying.

    “Better Days” joins the ranks of several other high-profile Chinese-language movies that have either been nominated for or won the award. In 1991, acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s “Ju Dou” became the first film from China to be nominated for best international feature film, followed by Chen Kaige’s 1993 release “Farewell My Concubine.” Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” finally won the prize in 2001.

    Nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced Monday by actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas and her husband Nick Jonas. The star-studded award ceremony, which usually takes place at the end of February, has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic this year and will instead be held on April 25.

    Despite facing criticism in the past for being “so white,” the 2021 Oscars have a diverse list of nominees, several of them of Asian descent.

    Chinese-American director Chloé Zhao has been nominated in the best director category for her movie “Nomadland.” The Beijing-born director is only the sixth woman to be nominated in this category in the academy’s history, and she was the first woman from Asia to win a Golden Globe for directing earlier this year.

    Zhao is also a nominee in the categories of film editing and best adapted screenplay, and is among those nominated for best picture.

    “‘Better Days’ is nominated for best international film, meaning it can be seen by the world. It’s a very good thing,” Cheng Qingsong, the editor-in-chief of industry journal Youth Film Handbook, told Sixth Tone. “And (Zhao) has been recognized all the way from last year’s Venice International Film Festival to the Golden Globes and the Oscars. It’s delightful.”

    Along with Zhao, another director, as well as another Asian-language film and several other actors of Asian descent, have also been nominated for Academy Awards this year.

    The Korean-language movie “Minari” is nominated for best picture, and the film’s director, Lee Isaac Chung, is nominated for best director. Steven Yeun from the movie is nominated for best actor, and 73-year-old South Korean actor Youn Yuh-jung is nominated for best supporting actress for playing a woman who moves to the United States to be with her family.

    British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed also joins the best actor category for his role as a drummer who loses his hearing in “Sound of Metal.” This year marks the first time two actors of Asian heritage have secured a nomination in the best actor category.

    The recognition of several actors and directors of Asian descent comes as the U.S. has seen a disturbing rise in violence against the Asian community. In 2020, 16 of the country’s largest cities saw increases in anti-Asian hate crimes by nearly 150% compared with previous years, according to data from California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

    Contributions: Chen Qi’an; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: A promotional poster for the Chinese film “Better Days.” From Douban)