In light of that aspect of this awards season, let’s shine a spotlight on five female filmmakers whose unique talents for storytelling gave us both a lift and insight into our humanity as well as great entertainment.
This indie director of Chinese descent uses real people and their life stories to enhance the authenticity of her fictional work. Her 2015 debut, “Songs Brothers Told Me,” took place on a South Dakota reservation and focused on the bond between a Lakota Sioux brother and sister. Her second feature, “The Rider” focused on a rodeo-riding cowboy from the Badlands of South Dakota who suffers brain damage after a fall. He grows close to a temperamental bucking Bronco named Apollo, who trains and helps him heal.
With “Nomadland,” Zhao recruited one of the most authentic and grounded actresses around, Frances McDormand, to play Fern, a widow who joins a band of vagabonds looking for temporary jobs after the Great Recession, while living in their RVs. Like Zhao’s previous films, her lead is surrounded by real-life travelers, who celebrate the freedom and community shared by these wanderers. Ever since “Nomadland” won top prizes at the Venice and Toronto fests in September, it has been the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars.
As for Zhao, she made Golden Globe history by becoming the second woman (after Barbra Streisand, who won for 1983’s “Yentl”) and first Asian woman to win, and is also considered the favorite in the directing category at the Academy Awards. And, this week, she made the cut for the Directors Guild of America Award. Zhao already has another achievement in the pipeline—she has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her superhero thriller “The Eternals,” scheduled to be released in November 2021.