After screening at the Venice International Film Festival and being nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion in September, the first Chinese film addressing child abuse, Angels Wear White, was honored at the Golden Horse Awards last week in Taipei, where filmmaker Vivian Qu took home the award for Best Director.

Angels Wear White cast and crew in Venice (source)

Either because of the newly-received award — or, more likely, due to media exposure of the recent child abuse scandal at Beijing’s RYB Kindergarten — a surprising number of people have made their way to the movie theater for the film’s limited run, perhaps out of a desire to gain a deeper understanding of an issue that is rarely discussed publicly in Chinese society. As of today, the film’s fifth day in theaters, its distribution has tripled, and it has already taken in nearly 17 million RMB (about $2.57 million) at the box office, according to Piaofang.maoyan.com (link in Chinese). At this writing, it ranks fifth in box office sales among films currently screening in China, an uncommonly high performance for an art film.

 

Angels Wear White hinges on powerful performances by teen actresses Zhou Meijun and Vicky Chen. Zhou plays Xiaowen, who along with a classmate is sexually assaulted in a motel by her classmate’s father’s boss — their powerful “uncle.” Xiaomi (Vicky Chen) works as a cleaner at the motel, and is the only witness to the act, recording the crime on the motel’s surveillance system. Xiaowen and her classmate later take a medical exam, triggering a wave of shocked reactions from their parents, police, and doctors.

Vivian Qu at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan

“The movie is not only talking about children who are assaulted, but also all of us, as bystanders. It’s not just a story of China, but something happening all over the world,” said director Vivian Qu during her acceptance speech (link in Chinese) at the Golden Horse Awards. “Vicky only had her own script, and Meijun did not even have a script when we were shooting. They are geniuses.”

Qu continued to praise the two young leading actresses: ”One of them is 13, the other 14. I think they cannot completely understand the meaning of this movie yet. But I really thank them — they speak up for those kids whose voices have never been heard.”

Cover photo: Hollywood Reporter