Chloe Zhao’s BAFTA wins hailed by Chinese netizens, but experts not optimistic about market performance of ‘Nomadland’ in Chinese mainland
Published: Apr 12, 2021 11:41 PM
Zhao Ting Photo:VCG

Chloe Zhao Photo:VCG

The winners of the 2021 British Academy Film Awards were announced on Sunday to the applause of Chinese netizens, who praised the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for awarding Chinese filmmakers Chloe Zhao and Ang Lee.

Zhao was awarded Best Director, making her the second female director to win the BAFTA prize, while her movie Nomadland won Best Picture and Best Film. Lee was honored with a BAFTA Fellowship.

South Korean actress Yun Yeo-Jong was the third Asian face at the awards. She was honored with Best Supporting Actress.

The results of the awards were praised by Chinese netizens. "Congratulations to Ang Lee! And Zhao is a talented film director. They deserve the awards," netizens sent their congratulations to the two winners, along with expressing the hope they will continue producing more stunning works.

Some netizens mentioned the previous controversies surrounding Zhao concerning questions about her nationality and past comments about China, saying that she had smeared China's image and reputation.

"She made incorrect comments, but we should not deny her filmmaking talent," one netizen wrote on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Compared to the talk about Zhao, it was all praise and applause for Lee. Many Chinese netizens gave thumbs up to a video of Lee's acceptance speech that had been posted on Sina Weibo.

Nomadland had been scheduled to launch in Chinese mainland's cinemas on April 23, but was suspended after Chinese netizens dug up a past interview in which Zhao said China is a place where "there are lies everywhere." 

"Even though the film can be released in the Chinese mainland, it may not do well at the box office," Shi Chuan, vice chairman of the Shanghai Film Association, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"That might because Zhao is familiar with the Western value system, which is so different from Chinese society's, and added those values in her movie."

The critic added that the polarized reviews from Chinese audiences who have watched the movie support his position.

Some Chinese film critics have noted that due to the similarities in taste between the British Academy Film Awards and the Academy Awards, the winners are a good indication of who will go home with an Oscar later this month. 

Shi said that the high number of Asian and black winners at the 2021 awards shows that the academy is pursuing internationalization and diversification.

Nomadland is up for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Best Actress at the 93rd Academy Awards, according to the nominations list released in March.