On March 15, 2021, when the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced, Chloé Zhao made history. The Chinese-American filmmaker became the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. Her movie Nomadland is also nominated in the Best Picture category.
Zhao also earned three other nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing and as a producer in the Best Picture category – becoming the woman with most nominations in a single year in Oscar history. She is now being considered as the frontrunner to win in the Best Director category. Nomadland is also billed as the obvious choice for the most coveted Best Picture award.
Earlier this year, at the Golden Globes held in February, Zhao made history as the first woman of Asian descent – and only the second woman overall – to win a Globe for Best Director. Nomadland became the first ever female-directed movie to win in the Best Motion Picture (Drama) category in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 78-year old awards history.
At its core, Nomadland is the exploration of an unorthodox way of living. It is a masterclass in deep character study as the story follows a woman named Fern, played by the amazing Frances McDormand, who loses her job in the Great Recession of 2008 and adapts to a nomadic lifestyle with nothing but a van and the open road. The central theme of the movie is inspired by Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century”.
In her chat with Entertainment Weekly, Zhao says, “When I read Jessica’s book, there’s a core thing that I felt on the pages. The sense of loss, a collective sense of loss. The loss of a lifestyle, the loss of security, the loss of loved ones, the loss of sense of self.” On the screen, McDormand doesn’t miss even a single beat as she brings out this feeling to the viewer.
Nomadland began its journey of awards and accolades as soon as its release. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the festival’s top honor, the Golden Lion. It was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won the People’s Choice Award.
After history-making dual wins at the Golden Globes, the movie also won in the top four categories at the Critics’ Choice Awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
At the 2021 BAFTAs, the film was nominated in seven categories and won in four of them. It was awarded Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Frances McDormand won Best Actress in a Leading Role.
On April 25, all eyes will be on the Oscars stage to see if Chloé Zhao gets the highest recognition from the Academy.