Chloé Zhao and Nomadland won big at the Golden Globes. We have everything to know about the Eternals filmmaker?

Written by: Kelly Levine – March 2nd, 2022 9:49 pm pst

What to know about the Nomadland director

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chloé Zhao is a name we’re all going to be hearing a lot for the next few months. The independent director from China is making waves in the film industry with her newest project Nomadland. The film follows a woman in her sixties who, after losing her job, becomes a van dwelling drifter. After winning The Golden Lion, the highest prize at the Venice Film Festival, the movie went on to receive significant attention at last Sunday’s Golden Globes. Nomadland racked up both the Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director awards, making it a frontrunner at the upcoming Academy Awards. Zhao also made history as the second woman and first Asian American to nab the award for Best Director at the Globes. In her acceptance speech, she read a poem about compassion written by one of the “nomads” who inspired the film.

Despite just hitting mainstream success, Nomadland’s director Chloé Zhao has been making movies for many years. Born and raised in Beijing, China, Chloé spent much of her childhood and teen years traveling the world. She attended boarding school in London for a majority of her youth before wrapping up her schooling in Los Angeles. For college, Zhao ended up moving to South Hadley, Massachusetts to pursue a political science degree at Mount Holyoke College. It was when Chloé Zhao was studying film production at New York University Tisch School of the Arts for her masters that she found her true passion. Her talent immediately caught the eye of NYU guest professor Spike Lee. The Do the Right Thing filmmaker personally selected Chloé Zhao as a recipient of the Spike Lee Fellowship Award which earned Zhao a screenwriting fellowship at Yaddo Artist Residency.

Chloé Zhao developed her feature film debut a couple years later in 2015 in partnership with the Sundance Institute workshop. Songs My Brothers Taught Me tells the story of the bond between a Lakota Sioux brother and his younger sister while they navigate life in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The film was highly praised upon its release with Zhao being nominated for numerous awards including Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. Many also praised Zhao for providing authentic indingeonous representation on film, something that is sadly rare in the film industry.

It was when shooting Songs My Brothers Taught Me that Chloé Zhao met the inspiration for her next film. She befriended local cowboy and reservation resident Brady Jandreau. Upon the news that Brady had suffered a massive head injury while performing in a rodeo competition, the pair dedicated themselves to making a film about the event. Brady ended up playing a fictionalized version of himself in Zhao’s 2017 film The Rider. Similarly to Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Zhao opted to use nonactors and real locations to draw audiences into the story. Her creative choices clearly paid off as The Rider was even more beloved than Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Chloé Zhao won the award for Best Feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards and racked up five nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards. This was also the film that sprung a new exciting chapter for Chloé Zhao.

In September 2018, it was announced that Marvel Studios had tapped Chloé Zhao to helm their upcoming Eternals movie. In the film, the Eternals, who have hidden themselves for thousands of years, must re-unite to protect Earth from their enemies, the Deviants. This new entry into the MCU will introduce fans to a whole host of new characters. Zhao was personally handpicked by Marvel President Kevin Feige to helm the project. Feige was incredibly impressed with Zhao’s initial pitch which reportedly included reams of visuals and fascinating universe building. In fact, Marvel was so excited to get Chloé Zhao onto the project that they were concerned she might take on a different big-studio project instead, forcing them to move quickly to secure her. Zhao’s goal for the Eternals debut is to push the Marvel universe even farther after Avengers: Endgame. She also wanted to incorporate her love of manga to the project and bring both Eastern and Western influences to the forefront. Eternals is already shaping up to be Marvel’s most ambitious and revolutionary project yet. A diverse cast was hired, which include Marvel Studios’ first depiction of an LGBTQ superhero and their first superhero with a disability played by deaf actress Lauren Ridloff.

If you want an idea of what the Eternals might look like you should definitely check out Nomadland. Although much more grounded than the Eternals will ever be, you can still get a good sense of how unique Chloé Zhao’s directing is. Afterall, Variety reported that “with 34 awards season trophies for directing, 13 for screenplay and nine for editing, Chloe Zhao has surpassed Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) as the most awarded person in a single awards season in the modern era.” With only three feature films under her belt, Chloé Zhao’s career is just getting started and what a wonderful place to start.

About The Author:

Kelly Levine is a screenwriting student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. She hopes to one day pursue a career in television writing and production. Kelly loves television, movies, and all things nerdy in pop culture!

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