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‘Nomadland’ wins top prize at Venice film fest

作者:admin 2020-09-14

Nomadland by director Chloe Zhao scooped the top prize at the Venice film festival on Saturday, the first woman to win the Golden Lion in a decade.

The film, an ode to US wanderlust and the highs and lows of the open road, won the top honor in a competition billed as a relaunch of global cinema bruised by the coronavirus crisis.

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Press photographers wait for guests to arrive for the screening of the film Nomadland at the Venice film festival on Friday in Venice. Photos: AFP

Starring Frances McDormand, it is set among a motley tribe of aging van dwellers, down on their luck and roaming the West. The double-Oscar winner plays a widow who takes to the road after losing her home.

Its Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao picked up the coveted award 10 years after Sofia Coppola's 2010 win for her film Somewhere, in a year in which nearly half of the films in the main competition were directed by women.

Via Zoom, Zhao and McDormand appeared from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California - where the film had a US premiere on Friday - sitting inside the van used in the film.  

"Thank you so much for letting us come to your festival in this weird, weird world and way," said McDormand. 

"We will see you down the road," they said in unison, quoting a greeting used by the van dwellers in the film. 

The 77th edition of the "Mostra" festival - presided over by Australian actress Cate Blanchett as jury president - took place in a year when theaters have been closed, film sets shut down and moviegoers forced to embrace streaming video at home instead, during months of coronavirus-imposed lockdown.

Hot new talent 

Zhao, 38, is one of Hollywood's hottest new talents, with Variety magazine having hailed her last film, The Rider, about a rodeo grunt, as a "mini-masterpiece." 

She is currently making the next Marvel movie, The Eternals.

Nomadland was loudly applauded when it premiered at Venice on Friday and had horns honking at a Pasadena drive-in cinema for its US premiere.

The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a unique portrait of outsider existence" while Variety said it was "a marvel of empathy and introspection."

Zhao, who cast real van dwellers opposite McDormand, insisted the film was not political, but many saw it as a subtle allegory on US decline, with its humble heroes clinging onto the last threads of the American Dream.

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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.

Reaction from China

Zhao's win quickly went viral on Chinese social media platforms, with the hashtag earning more than 270 million views as of Sunday afternoon on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

"She has shown the world the power of a female director and especially a Chinese female director. What a wonderful work! I already look forward to her next film," one netizen commented on Sina Weibo.

Some Chinese celebrities such as Zhang Yuqi took to Sina Weibo to congratulate the director, while many netizens on the platform said they hope the film will be able to come to the Chinese mainland as soon as possible so they can enjoy it for themselves. 

Born in Beijing, Zhao is the stepdaughter of Chinese veteran artist Song Dandan. 

Instead of living in the shadow of her stepfather's fame, she decided to go abroad to develop her career on her own. 

Zhao's achievements have inspired Chinese netizens. 

"We can also produce high-quality film works. As a student majoring in directing, I will put in more effort," one Sina Weibo user commented in a post.

High-profile 'test' 

Normally attended by more than 10,000 film industry executives, critics, journalists and moviegoers, the Venice festival was the first major international movie competition to go ahead after others around the world, including its main rival, the Cannes Film Festival, were canceled.

Festival director Alberto Barbera called the event "a sort of test" for the film industry.

The industry is slowly regaining its footing, with some production resuming and cinemas reopening, even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many parts of the world. 

In Italy, the festival was also viewed as a sign of hope and normalcy for the first country in Europe to be battered by the global crisis. 

Nevertheless, big-budget blockbusters that have premiered in Venice in years past were missing, as was the bevy of Hollywood A-listers, who have fans screaming for autographs on the sidelines of the red carpet. 

Instead, the 2020 version was decidedly low-key, with about half the usual number of attendees, fewer films and seating in theaters that was staggered to respect social distancing.

Masks were mandatory, hand sanitizer bountiful, temperatures were taken on entering the festival grounds and ubiquitous red signs warned attendees to respect the anti-coronavirus measures.
Newspaper headline: 'Weird, weird world'

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