Tears flow as hit film Better Days shines rare light on China school bullying

Better Days tells the story of a teenage girl who teams up with a school drop-out to protect her from bullies.
Better Days tells the story of a teenage girl who teams up with a school drop-out to protect her from bullies.PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS

SHANGHAI (AFP) - A harrowing drama about school bullying has struck a chord with Chinese cinema audiences.

Better Days shines a spotlight on what state-run China Daily called "a nationwide problem which has existed for years" but is rarely broached in Chinese films.

A real-life case went viral this week about a seven-year-old girl who needed hospital treatment after fellow pupils forced scraps of paper into her eyes.

Better Days has grossed at least US$200 million (S$273 million) in the nearly three weeks since its release, according to the China Movie Data Information Network.

Starring Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee, the film is based on a novel and tells the story of a teenage girl who teams up with a school drop-out to protect her from bullies.

The character's plight has left cinema-goers deeply moved, with many commenting online that they had been reduced to tears.

For a few, the film is a reminder of a past they would rather forget.

The movie also highlights the pressures of the "gaokao", the examination to get into Chinese universities.

The authorities appear to have only very reluctantly allowed the film by Hong Kong director Derek Tsang to be screened because of the sensitivity of the subject.

In February, it was pulled without explanation from the Berlin Film Festival days before it was to be shown.

It failed to come out as scheduled in June in Chinese cinemas, before it was finally rolled out on Oct 25.

Many speculated that cuts had been made.

 

Cinema-goers are left in no doubt that the government is taking bullying seriously with public-service announcements before and after the film.

One message details the steps the government is taking, such as the launch last year of a major anti-bullying campaign in primary and middle schools.

On Tuesday, a law professor writing in the China Daily said the film "has sparked a public debate on school bullying".