Chloe Zhao has made history as the first woman of color and just the second woman to win the Oscars for Best Director.
Nomadland, a film by Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao, was the major winner at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night. She won best picture, best director, and best actress. Zhao made history by becoming the first Asian woman, the first Chinese woman, and the first woman of color to win the top directing prize at the Oscars. Back in China, however, state and mass media were deafeningly silent in the face of her victory.
Neither China’s official mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, state news service Xinhua, nor the nationalist tabloid Global Times had published a single story on Zhao’s multiple Academy Award wins in the hours following the ceremony.
Chloe Zhao had been “the second Chinese filmmaker to win the best director Oscar, after Ang Lee,” according to the two-line post on a private Chinese news site. The Oscars and the rest of the world have always regarded Lee, born and raised in southern Taiwan, as a Taiwanese filmmaker rather than a mainland Chinese. On the other hand, Beijing considers Taiwan as a renegade territory. And has promised to reunite the democratically controlled island with the Chinese mainland in the coming years. Even if it means using military force.
Zhao’s Oscar Was Initially Censored
Zhao’s Oscars moment was initially suppressed, but not to the point of an absolute ban. During and after the Oscars, Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo received a moderate outpouring of support for her. The videos of her acceptance speech were initially unblocked. Chinese film industry professionals expressed their surprise and appreciation for her accomplishment on social media. However, as the day went on, the censors started removing most of the conversation and video. Thus, forcing fans to rely on coded and oblique references to Zhao’s performance.
Chinese officials have long yearned for the cultural recognition conferred by the Academy Awards in the United States. The suppression of Zhao’s moment of glory in the Chinese press, on the other hand, had been foreshadowed for weeks.
Fans greeted Zhao’s win for best director at the Golden Globes on February 28 — another first for an Asian woman with equal enthusiasm in China and the United States, with Chinese news outlets and social media users hailing her as a source of national pride. The mood, on the other hand, quickly deteriorated. Internet sleuths uncovered old interviews in which Zhao seemed to be dismissive of her homeland. And controversy and vitriol about her “attitude toward China” spread as quickly as the adoration. Beijing’s internet censors joined the fray next, banning most Nomadland publicity on social media. The film’s previously confirmed April 23 theatrical release date has now been canceled. The broadcasters also televised live in China The Academy Awards ceremony for the first time in years. The state broadcaster CCTV and one of the country’s leading private streaming platforms normally present the streams of the show.
Chloe Zhao Made A Comment That Was Decade Ago, And It Seems To Have Gone Under Beijing’s Skin
Chloe Zhao commented in an interview with the tiny New York quarterly Filmmaker Magazine nearly a decade ago. And it seems to have gone under Beijing’s skin. “It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a position where there are lies everywhere,” Zhao said of the inspirations for her debut movie, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, about a Native American teen trying to find his way on a reservation.
A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable for a Chinese national to win an Oscar. And receive no official acclaim at home. China’s state media has seized every opportunity in recent years to celebrate Chinese success at the Academy Awards. It does not matter how tenuous the connection. Green Book won the best picture in 2019. According to state news service Xinhua, the film subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group co-financed it. Even though the film’s director, Domee Shi, emigrated to Canada when she was two years old, the propaganda outlet claimed a piece of the glory for that year’s best animated short film, Bao, the charming tale of a steamed Chinese bun.
Chloe Zhao Is A Real Chinese Sensation
When there was no Chinese national in nominations that year, Xinhua reported: “The 91st Academy Awards is the start of a new era in which China’s presence in the international film industry grows. The film has proven to be an important tool for telling human stories that cross geographical, political, and cultural divides. It’s promising to see more Chinese businesses, filmmakers, executives, and actors embracing the medium and playing a larger role in the global entertainment industry’s growing interconnectedness.”
China’s state press had little to say in 2021 when China’s most globally famous filmmaker in a decade made a film that won the best film, best director, and best actress.