China turns back on Oscar winner Chloe Zhao

World | 26 Apr 2021 1:14 pm

Chloe Zhao, 39, made history as the first Asian woman and second woman ever to win best director at the Academy Awards, but her big moment was blacked out from live television in her native China, Reuters reports.

"I am extremely lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, and if this means more people get to live their dreams, I'm extremely grateful," she said backstage afterwards in Los Angeles.

Zhao's Nomadland, the story of financially stretched van dwellers won the Oscar for best director and also won best picture and captured a best actress Oscar for Frances McDormand. It was the first Oscar for Zhao. She was also nominated for best film editing and best adapted screenplay but did not win.

Zhao was born in China and lived in Beijing until age 14, when she went to boarding school in London and later finished high school in Los Angeles.

But China did not get to see her triumph live on television, as it was not offered. Chinese media regulators also decided in March not to air the Oscars live on its streaming platforms, the Washington Post reported. Zhao has become controversial in her native land, where commentators on social media said she has insulted China in some of her past comments.

Hong Kong TV audiences were also unable to watch in real time because free-to-air broadcaster TVB declined to air the Academy Awards for the first time in more than 50 years. TVB, which has broadcast the Oscars every year since 1969, said it would not carry the ceremony for "commercial reasons."

The decision not to air the Oscars has raised concerns about dwindling freedoms in Hong Kong, which has taken an authoritarian path since China imposed a sweeping national security law last year in response to the financial hub's pro-democracy protests of 2019.

Zhao's comments upon winning were apolitical and evoked fond memories of her childhood in China, recalling a game she played with her father trying to memorize classic Chinese poems. She recalled one entitled, "Three Character Classic," in which a character says "people at birth are inherently good,"

Zhao said, an apparent reference to her casting non-actors in her films.

"I still truly believe them today," Zhao said of the letters in the poem. "Even though sometimes they might seem like the opposite is true, but I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere I went in the world."

Casting everyday people adds a realism to her films, which tell real and somewhat simple stories with an understated feel.

That is why there is great anticipation in Hollywood about her upcoming films including the Marvel Studios big-budget action flick "Eternals," scheduled for release in November, and a sci-fi Western version of "Dracula."

After attending film school in New York, Zhao won acclaim for independent movies "Songs My Brothers Taught Me," about the bond between a Native American brother and sister, and "The Rider," the story of a young cowboy recovering from a serious head injury.

 



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