The Palm Springs International Film Awards announced that Chloé Zhao is the recipient of the Director of the Year Award for "Nomadland."
“Director and screenwriter Chloé Zhao’s "Nomadland" is a film that captures the triumph of the human spirit,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “This extremely unique and well done film captures the grand landscapes of the American West as it follows Fern, played by Frances McDormand, who hits the road in her camper van moving from one real encampment of present day nomads to another. Nomadland is one of the most accomplished films of the year and we are delighted to honor our first female Director of the Year, Chloé Zhao!”
Past recipients of the PSIFF's Director of the Year Award include Alejandro G. Iñárritu ("Babel," "Birdman"), Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave"), Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air"), David O. Russell ("The Fighter") and Quentin Tarantino ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"). All of those directors went on to receive Best Director Academy Award nominations. Iñárritu received a Best Director Academy Award for "Birdman."
"Nomadland" centers on Fern (played by two-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand), who, following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.
The film also stars Academy Award nominee David Strathairn, and real-life actors Swankie, Bob Wells and Linda May, all of whom appeared in Jessica Bruder’s acclaimed book, which Zhao adapted to the screen.
"Nomadland" won Best Film from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, the Indiana Film Journalists Association, among others.
The film has received many additional accolades and awards, including the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival and the People’s Choice Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Additionally, Zhao was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Indiana Film Journalists Association among others.
"Nomadland" will open in select IMAX locations on January 29, 2021, and in theaters, and on Hulu on February 19, 2021.
Zhao was born in Beijing, China, where she was raised and also in Brighton, England. After moving to the US, she studied Politics at Mt Holyoke College and Film Production at NYU.
As a writer, director, and producer, her first feature "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2015 and her second feature "The Rider" premiered at Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight in 2017 and won the Art Cinema Awards. Her next film is "Eternals."
Zhao joins this year’s previously announced honorees Gary Oldman (
"Mank") and Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman''), and Riz Ahmed ("Sound of Metal")
The Festival and Film Awards Gala will not take place as an in-person event this year, but honoree selections will be announced to recognize this year’s great performances and Entertainment Tonight will air a tribute to the honorees scheduled on February 11 and February 25.