Cover Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nominees for the Best Picture award faced stiff competition this year, but The Academy can only crown Chloé Zhao's 'Nomadland.'

The acclaimed road-trip tale Nomadland was able to captivate The Academy’s heart this year as it bagged the Best Picture award, one of Hollywood’s top trophies. The film competed with Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, David Fincher’s Mank, Lee Chung’s Minari, Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, Florian Zeller’s The Father, Shaka King’s Judas and The Black Messiah, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of Chicago 7.

Directed by Chloé Zhao, the movie stars Frances McDormand as a woman who lives in a van and leaves her hometown of Empire, Nevada to travel across the American West. 

The strikingly poignant and poetic film shed light on the plight of a woman who lost everything during the Great Recession. It was inspired by Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, but Zhao has completely taken over the movie by writing its screenplay.

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“We put our heads together in this little bubble and didn’t really think about the outside world,” Zhao said in an interview last year. "I am not the kind of filmmaker who just makes films. I have to be in love with my subject matter and want to learn more about it. Someone once said to me that passion doesn’t sustain, but curiosity does. I have to be excited by little things I discover along the way."

Nomadland has garnered several awards including the Best Motion Picture in the 2021 Golden Globes, Best Film in the 2021 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, and Best Film in the 2021 Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

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Cholé Zhao Makes History

Zhao has also won Oscar for directing Nomadland, she is the first woman of colour to win the award and the first woman to get four Oscar nominations (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture) in one year.

In her speech, Zhao thanked the Academy and the entire team behind Nomadland. “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and in each other. This is for you; you inspire me to keep going.”

Related: Oscars 2021: Steven Yeun Makes History As The First Asian-American Best Actor Nominee


Prior to Nomadland, Zhao had written and directed Songs My Brothers Taught Me, a 2015 American drama that follows Native American siblings living in South Dakota, and The Rider, a movie about a rising rodeo star who gets his brain damaged from a near-death accident. 

Both movies received critical acclaim and the latter won the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Feature and the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Picture respectively. 

In November, Zhao is set to embark on a new project with Marvel Studios. Her next film The Eternals tells the tale of immortal beings who lived on Earth to shape its history and build its civilisations.

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