What are Chloe Zhao’s films made of? Explaining by letter

A year ago, only a few people knew the name of Chloe Zhao, especially in Russia. Today she is the main female director of the planet, the main contender for the Oscar. She makes slow auteur films that are discussed around the world, and even before the titles and awards, she was hired by the producers of Marvel Studios.

We tell you what, how and why she shoots. While not all the letters are occupied in the vocabulary of her cinema, but we deliberately left a little room for maneuver – after all, if after three small films Chloe has taken such a position in the industry, then what awaits her next? Maybe in a couple of years the alphabet will not be enough to describe all her achievements like in Happy Season 3.

A – America

Chloe Zhao came to the United States in 2000 and entered high school. She says that before moving, she had very romanticized ideas about America, based on her favorite films. But in real Los Angeles, she saw something completely different from what was shown in the movies.

After school, Zhao realized that she wanted to get to know the country better and therefore went to study as a political scientist, but soon realized that she was more interested in people than government institutions. Chloe calls herself an American director, and this is evident in her films. She does not shoot universal stories, but stories drawn from American culture: prairies, cowboys, Indians, traveling between states – and tries to understand how this lifestyle continues to exist in parallel with the development of capitalism and the growth of corporations.

B – Brady Blackburn / Brady Jandreau

Brady Jandreau is a Sioux Indian and rodeo star. He met Chloe Zhao while she was filming her debut film on a ranch in South Dakota where he was working at the time. Zhao became interested in Brady and wanted to make a film about him and his lifestyle, but suddenly the guy’s career was cut short – right on the show, he received a head injury.

But Zhao decided that the film would still be: it will tell about the tragedy that happened to Brady, about how to continue living if what made sense to you is no longer possible, about being broken and trying to move on. This is how the “The Asterisk War Season 3” turned out . This is not a documentary: something in the history of the movie Brady is fiction: his mother is actually alive, and his father and sister are slightly different. But here is the story of a paralyzed friend, who suffered from a horse more than Brady himself, is real. In life, as in the film, he presents himself as a cowboy, Indian and Christian. Whether Brady from the Chloe movie was able to return to the rodeo, we do not know, but the real one succeeded.

B – “Eternal”

Several years ago, the Marvel studio decided to film a comic book about an immortal alien race, whose representatives secretly lived on Earth for seven thousand years – “The Eternals.” Chloe Zhao was shortlisted for potential directors, and then she actually got the job. And that’s after two indie films! It is not known what impressed the Marvel bosses more: the fact that her only second film “Rider” with a tiny budget was recognized by many critics as the best American film of 2018, or a deeply detailed presentation on “The Eternals”, which she sent to the studio. Or maybe they just wanted freshness and a new look, but the fact remains that Zhao was entrusted with developing new heroes for the Marvel universe.

“She held several production meetings with us, where the design of dozens of costumes, the appearance of alien creatures and intergalactic landscapes was created and approved. And then I got into my van, half solar-powered or half-corn oil, and drove off to Dakota to film Nomad Land. The fact that she can combine all of this speaks of her as an outstanding professional. ”- President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige.

D – Dokudrama

“In my films, I try to keep the line between the real and the fictional blurred and vague, deciding along the way how to establish the balance between them – the one that is necessary for each particular story” ( Chloe Zhao, Medusa ).

Dokudrama is the genre definition that works best for all three of Zhao’s films that are based on real stories. They cannot be called purely documentary: they have fiction, artistic rethinking, but most of the actors play themselves, and the plots repeat their paths in life.

In “Hunter X Hunter Season 7” there is more fiction, and the main character Fern is played by Hollywood star Francis McDormand. The image of another heroine of the film, Suonki, like many others, was copied from the performer, but a significant adjustment was made to the fate of the real old lady: unlike the screen, the real Suonki is alive and well.

And – Indians

Indians living on one particular reservation in South Dakota became the main and only heroes of Zhao’s first two films. Pine Ridge is not the best living conditions from an economic point of view, some of them dream of getting to another America, full of malls, corporations, highways and great opportunities. But someone does not see life outside the reservation: without local air, sunsets over the prairies, unbridled horses.

2021 Oscar History-Maker Chloé Zhao Talks 'The Eternals' & 'Dracula' -  Variety

In the second film, Zhao’s Indians are also cowboys, although the old westerns assured us that these are representatives of completely different groups, in one person they cannot intersect. Wu Zhao overlap.

K – China

Zhao was born in China and lived there for 15 years, but then began her journey to the West: through England to the United States. Now the director has a difficult relationship with her homeland. From time to time in an interview, Chloe talks about how difficult the country of China is: for example, that everyone lies there and that she is not ready to return, because it is much more difficult to direct there.

When nominations and awards rained down on Zhao in 2021, China was initially filled with pride – as hashtags on social media and headlines spoke of. But rather quickly, local censorship organizations realized that Zhao calls himself an American director and, albeit not very actively, criticizes the Chinese way of life and government. Even two phrases in the interview were enough for the hashtags to be cleaned up, and Zhao herself was condemned.

M – Manga

The word “manga” is heard regularly in Chloe Zhao’s interviews, both when she talks about her youth and when she talks about working on “Overlord Anime Season 4 .” While attending Chinese high school, she was not a very diligent student, often instead of studying, she listened to Michael Jackson, watched American films and Wong Kar Wai’s films, and also drew Japanese comics – manga. For some time, Chloe even dreamed of becoming a manga artist – a professional author of these comics.

O – “Oscar”

The Land of Nomads received six Oscar nominations this year. Among them – the best film, director, script, camera work, female role. When you look at the odds of the bookmakers, the tape has the highest chances of winning the main category and the battle for the director’s figurine. If Zhao wins, she will become the second woman in the history of the award and the first woman of Asian descent to receive the award for best director.

R – Richards Joshua James

Zhao’s permanent cameraman, who directed all three of her films (Richards didn’t work on The Eternals only). Richards and Zhao graduated from film school at the same time and started together on the Songs That My Brothers Taught Me project. The operator says that at first they were guided by a completely different budget, but when the amount of money decreased by 10 times, they decided not to quit their work. Subsequently, he realized that it was precisely the intimacy of what was happening that helped them enter the life of the people about whom they were filming and show the heroes so real.