Chloe Zhao’s Oscar nominations for ‘Nomadland’ may not earn her forgiveness in China: experts
Published: Mar 16, 2021 07:12 PM
Chinese director Chloe Zhao  and Fox Searchlight Co-Chairman Stephen Gilula attend the drive-in premiere of her film <em>Nomadland</em> on Friday in Pasadena, California. Photo: AFP

Chinese director Chloe Zhao and Fox Searchlight Co-Chairman Stephen Gilula attend the drive-in premiere of her film Nomadland on Friday in Pasadena, California. Photo: AFP

As was expected, Chinese director Zhao Ting, better known as Chloe Zhao, has received a total of six Academy Award nominations for Nomadland. It seems that this award-winning film would definitely earn at least one Oscar statuette from the Academy, but most Chinese netizens and film experts think this unprecedented honor may not be able to save the director's reputation in China due to her previous controversial comments. 

Nomadland garnered six nominations for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Actress at the 93rd Academy Awards, according to the nominations list released on Monday.

But many experts say it is unlikely for Nomadland to win Best Picture as The Trial of the Chicago 7 might be the biggest competitor.

"The Oscars pay special attention to political correctness and needs a work with a clear standpoint to express its stance," Shi Wenxue, a film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"I think the Best Adapted Screenplay Award has the best chance to win since the novel Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century itself is also an excellent non-fiction work, and it has received the same success and sensation after being adapted into a movie," Shi added. 

Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he thought Best Director is more likely a cinch for Nomadland. If this becomes true, Zhao would be the sixth woman to win the award at the Oscars. 

Better Days

Better Days

However, both experts expressed their opinion that even if the front-running Zhao wins these honors, her previous controversial comments have "severely affected the release of Nomadland in the Chinese mainland." 

Nomadland was previously announced to be released in the Chinese mainland on April 23, but currently all information related to the movie on Chinese ticketing platforms, film review websites and social media has been removed. 

"This greatly concerns Zhao herself. China just established an ethics committee for the film and television industry in December 2020, which means that illegal and immoral behavior, such as that of actress Zheng Shuang, will affect the works of people in the industry. Their works will never be released and they will have to pay compensation to the studios," said Shi.

"Even if Nomadland wins and is finally released in the Chinese mainland, and the Oscar's blessing may indeed attract some people into the theater, it will most likely cause some dissatisfaction among moviegoers who are unhappy with Zhao's previous remarks, which may even lead to the extreme that people boycott the film. In fact, similar comments have already appeared on Sina Weibo before," said Xiao.

Compared with Zhao's nomination, Chinese netizens seem to be more excited about the Chinese film Better Days, which got a surprise nomination in the international feature film category.

The news delighted many Chinese netizens and quickly began trending on Chinese social media on Monday night with the related hashtag earning 620 million views by Tuesday afternoon.

"We have waited for this moment for too long! It's a great honor for Better Days to be nominated this time," one Chinese netizen commented on Sina Weibo.  

Media reported that a total of seven Chinese language films have previously been nominated for International Feature Film, but only Ang Lee's martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has won the prize.

"Better Days was been nominated due to its excellent quality and its theme on social issues -school bullying. It is a masterpiece," Xiao said.

"The big winner at the 92nd Academy Awards - the Korean film Parasite has some common features with Better Days. They both reflect local reality and are critical of class, and they both keep a good balance in display and artistic expression, so I think there is still a certain possibility for Better Days to win the prize," said Shi.