Last night, Chloé Zhao made history by being only the second woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes, the first being Barbara Streisand. Despite a career that's been piling up hardware since it began in 2015, many people don't know much about the director of Nomadland.
Her Directing Style
Zhao has a deeply unique approach to filmmaking, where she utilizes non-actors in their own settings to tell their own stories. The Rider was about an actual cowboy she met on a reserve in South Dakota while filming Songs My Brothers Taught Me. That same cowboy starred in the film, playing a fictionalized version of himself.
She finds the people, she hears their stories, she lets them tell it themselves, in a way that blends artistic filmmaking with documentary.
Zhao didn't exactly creep onto the scene. After being born in Beijing to the manager of a steel company, Zhao graduated from NYU Tisch with a degree in film production.
Then, in 2015, her first feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which examines a sibling relationship between who Lakota Sioux people on a reserve in South Dakota. This film made it to Sundance, where it received critical acclaim and went on to be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.
Her next film, The Rider, about a cowboy who suffers a career ending injury, essentially went through the same award cycle as Songs My Brothers Taught Me, only more so.
Her most recent film, Nomadland, is what sent Zhao flying into the mainstream. It's up for SAG Awards, Critics Choice Awards, it just won two Golden Globes, and there are definitely still more to come.
Directing is a hugely, almost entirely male profession. Being a female director is hard enough, let alone making something so good you break up the boys club and make everyone pay attention.
It seems Zhao's trajectory into the mainstream is going nowhere but up. In 2018, Amazon signed off on a currently untitled biopic about Bass Reeves, the first black US Deputy Marshall, which Zhao will write and direct.
It also seems she's going off into the MCU, with Eternals, a film she directed for the franchise back in 2018, set to be released in November of this year.
This Golden Globe win was just the beginning for Zhao. She is unique, incredibly talented, and making an impression wherever she goes. Watch out for her.
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