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Chloe Zhao, a Chinese-born filmmaker who told the story of financially strapped van dwellers in the Oscar-nominated film “Nomadland,” became the first Asian woman and only the second woman to win best director at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
Zhao, 39, won her first Academy Award for her film, which starred real-life nomads alongside actress Frances McDormand and depicted the lives of older Americans who travel from job to job to make ends meet.
Zhao was born in China and lived in Beijing until she was 14 years old when she moved to London to attend boarding school and then to Los Angeles to finish high school.
In China, however, where she has been criticised, her big moment was not broadcast live on television. Zhou has previously insulted China, according to posters on Chinese social media.
For the first time in more than 50 years, Hong Kong TV viewers were unable to watch the Academy Awards in real-time because free-to-air broadcaster TVB refused to air them.
For ‘commercial reasons,’ TVB, which has broadcast the Oscars every year since 1969, has decided not to air the show.
The decision not to broadcast the Oscars has raised concerns about Hong Kong’s dwindling freedoms since China imposed a broad national security law last year in response to pro-democracy protests in the financial hub in 2019.
Her winning remarks, on the other hand, were apolitical and brought back fond memories of her childhood in China, including a game she played with her father to memorise classic Chinese poems.
She recalled one called ‘Three Character Classic,’ in which a character says, “People at birth are inherently good,” Zhou said, implying that she cast non-actors in her films.
Zhou said of the poem’s letters, “I still truly believe them today.” “Although it may appear that the opposite is true at times, I have always found goodness in the people I have met wherever I have travelled.”
Her films, which tell real and somewhat simple stories with an understated feel, gain realism from the use of real people in their casting.
That is why her upcoming films, including the Marvel Studios big-budget action film “Eternals” (due out in November) and a sci-fi Western adaptation of “Dracula,” are generating so much excitement in Hollywood.
Zhao gained acclaim for independent films such as ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me,’ about a Native American brother and sister’s bond, and ‘The Rider,’ about a young cowboy recovering from a serious head injury,’ after attending film school in New York.
In the 93-year history of the Academy Awards, only two women have won for best director. The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, won the prize in 2010.
Zhao was up against Emerald Fennell, the director of “Promising Young Woman,” for the first time in the category’s history.
After winning awards from the Directors Guild of America, the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and a number of film critic groups, she entered the Oscars ceremony as the front-runner.