Beijing-born Chloe Zhao is the second woman to win the Oscar for Best Director
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Hollywood (United States) (AFP)
Chloe Zhao, the Beijing-born filmmaker whose independent films chronicle life in the heart of the United States, on Sunday became the second woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 93 Years of History.
The 39-year-old wowed Academy voters with her third film “Nomadland,” a semi-fictional drama about the hidden community of older Americans living in vans who call the open road their home.
Zhao follows in the footsteps of Kathryn Bigelow, who shattered the directors’ glass ceiling in 2010 when she won the award for “The Hurt Locker.”
“I have always found kindness in people I have met, wherever I have been in the world,” Zhao told the limited audience at the Los Angeles gala.
“So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves, and to hold on to the goodness in one another – no matter how difficult it is to do so.”
Born Zhao Ting to a wealthy executive in a Chinese steel company, the director left China as a teenager to attend a British boarding school before completing her studies in Los Angeles and New York.
But Zhao soon fell in love with the vast and wild rural spaces of her adopted American homeland – “Nomadland” is just her latest love letter to the spectacular landscapes of sparsely populated “overflown” states like South Dakota and North America. Nebraska.
Zhao stumbled across footage of the Lakota Indian homeland while in film school in New York City.
Feeling disconnected overseas in her late twenties, and deciding that she couldn’t make a better Big Apple movie than “the ones that have already been told,” Zhao decided “to go to the Big Apple. Where is”.
Her first film “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”, about a teenage girl dreaming of a life beyond the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, saw her spend months immersed in the remote indigenous region of the Midwest.
The film won festival awards, but Zhao’s breakthrough came two years later with “The Rider,” another near-western shot in Pine Ridge and nearby Badlands National Park.
– ‘Outskirts of society’ –
In both films, Zhao chose non-actors to play semi-fictional versions of themselves – a process which she says began out of necessity as an unknown director, but which has helped her ” build the world into which I enter ”.
“The Rider” was conceived after Zhao met a cowboy who was seriously injured but refused to leave the rodeo – Brady Jandreau, who plays the role of “Brady Blackburn”.
“I find that I often need their help… I often go to the outskirts of society and I don’t know enough about these places,” she said recently.
In “Nomadland,” based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book about Transient Americans living off the grid in worn out vans after the Great Recession, many characters also play versions of themselves.
But Zhao also led his first bona fide superstar in Frances McDormand, who was up for her third acting Oscar on Sunday.
This experience may have come in handy in the making of his next film – “Eternals,” a mega-budget blockbuster set in the record breaking series of Marvel superhero films.
“The budget shift from ‘The Rider’ to ‘Nomadland’ is similar to the shift from ‘Nomadland’ to ‘Eternals’,” Zhao said of the upcoming event starring Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. this year.
– ‘The crisis of adolescence’ –
Key to “Eternals” success will be its performance in Zhao’s ancestral homeland – “Avengers: Endgame,” an earlier Marvel series title, cost China $ 630 million.
But Zhao’s reputation in China is complicated, with state media initially calling her “the pride of China” before nationalists embarked on old media interviews in which she appeared to criticize and distance herself from the nation. .
Zhao hasn’t addressed the controversy directly, but recently said it would take “a few more years” before she dares to tackle her childhood roots onscreen.
“I feel like I should be thinking about teenage angst and all that, and home,” she said. “It’s going to take a few more years. I think I need to mature more, not to be afraid to look at myself.”
For now, she now lives in the hippie-influenced Ojai of rural California with her British cinematographer husband and two dogs.
And in a sign that she may be leaving her independent roots behind, Zhao’s next project after “Eternals” will be a futuristic sci-fi Western version of “Dracula”.
© 2021 AFP