The Rise of Zhou Dongyu or The Alarm for The Chinese Film Industry

In 2020, Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) – one of the 90s-born Four Little Hua Dan – took home the Best Actress award at the 33rd China Film Golden Rooster Awards for her performance in the coming-of-age movie “Better Days.”

The Rise of Zhou Dongyu

With her Best Actress awards at the 39th Hong Kong Film Awards for the same role and 53rd Golden Horse Awards in 2016 for her role in “Soul Mate,” Zhou has become the youngest and the third actress winning Best Actress at the three biggest Chinese film awards (三金影后) after Zhou Xun and Zhang Ziyi. 

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Zhou Dongyu – the youngest actress to have won Best Actress at the three biggest Chinese film awards 

This achievement, however, makes C-netizens furious. First and foremost, “Better Days” faces criticism as it is adapted from the novel “Young and Beautiful” by Jiu Yuexi, which is accused of plagiarism from Higashino Keigo’s works “Into the White Night” and “The Devotion of Suspect X.”


The fact that the movie won many awards despite facing unresolved controversies, especially related to intellectual property, has raised waves of anger among C-netizens. Besides that, Zhou’s three Best Actress awards make her apparently stand on a par with Zhou Xun and Zhang Ziyi, two Da Hua from the Four Dan, which seems to be unacceptable to many people.

Zhou’s roles and movies are said to be limited to coming-of-age tragedy themes that are easy to create sympathy, which is incomparable with the diversity in acting of the two seniors. That’s not to say that there are many actresses whose talents, works, and impacts have been recognized widely such as Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Shu Qi, Tang Wei, etc. but haven’t won all Best Actress awards at the three biggest Chinese film awards. 

However, many people believe that the real issue is not whether Zhou Dongyu deserves her awards, but, what is actually happening with the Chinese film industry.

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The real question is not whether Zhou Dongyu deserves her awards, but, what is actually happening with Chinese film industry?

The Alarm for The Chinese Film Industry

In recent years, the Chinese film industry has been overwhelmed with low-quality works. Many liuliang actors and actresses are in the race for commercial values instead of honing acting skills. Investors prioritize profit and traffic over quality, which has caused production crews to make low-quality films in bulk just to make a profit.

The scarcity of good scripts and production crews, which reflects on the explosion of the film adaptation, as well as the lack of decent acting skills have limited the chance for career breakthroughs of the 85s-born Liuliang Xiao Hua. Many of them haven’t even had a nomination in the mainstream awards, let alone win it.

Ni Ni has a good start and decent acting skills but her subsequent works are not outstanding. Angelababy and Liu Yifei’s acting skills can’t keep up with their good resources. Liu Shishi and Tang Yan are trying to get rid of their Mary Sue characters and looking for more diversity in role types. Yang Mi and Zhao Liying have great successes in dramas but still struggle to find their ways in the movie industry. 

That’s why, the 90s-born Zhou Dongyu, despite the controversy, is still considered good compared to her generation. Her rise proves the standards for the prestigious awards have never been lower. This should be ringing alarm bells on the recession of the Chinese film industry. 


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