Nomadland director Chloe Zhao’s history-making Oscar victory as first Asian woman to win best director is CENSORED in her native China

  • Chloe Zhao won Oscar as best director and her movie Nomadland won best film 
  • But news was censored in China, which banned live broadcasts of the ceremony 
  • Chinese social media censors also appeared to be removing news of her wins
  • Nomadland has yet to be released in China after an interview surfaced in which Zhao said the country is ‘full of lies’, sparking a backlash 

Chloe Zhao made history on Sunday night as the first Asian woman to win the best director award at the Oscars – though the victory was censored in her native China. 

Live broadcasts of the Oscars ceremony were blocked by Chinese censors while State-run news sites such as Xinhua and CCTV had not reported Zhao’s victory as of Monday morning. 

Social media censors also appeared to be removing posts talking about Zhao’s win, which was notably missing from the top trends on Weibo today.

Chloe Zhao celebrated becoming the first Asian woman to win a best director Oscar on Sunday while her film Nomadland won best picture – but news of her victories was censored in China


Zhao (pictured left with boyfriend Joshua James Richards, and right with real-life nomad Charlene Swankie who also stars in her film) fell foul of Chinese censors over comments she made in a magazine interview in 2013

Zhao’s film Nomadland has not been released yet in China, censored blocked the ceremony being broadcast live, and no state news sites were reporting her victories on Monday

It is a far cry from the celebratory tone struck by Chinese state media after Zhao won best director at the Golden Globes, teeing her up for Oscars glory.

Since then she has encountered a wall of hostility in her native country, after internet users dug up a magazine interview from 2013 in which she said the country was ‘a place where there are lies everywhere’.

That led to a backlash by nationalists who questioned Zhao’s heritage: She was born in Beijing to wealthy parents but schooled in Britain and America.

‘Double-faced American dog Zhao Ting, never come back to China,’ one social media user wrote at the time.

Since then, Zhao has been expunged from Chinese websites while her film Nomadland – which also won the best picture Oscar – has yet to be released in her home country.

It was scheduled for its debut on April 23 but the date was allowed to lapse and Chinese distributor National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas has refused to comment. 

It was the first Oscar for 39-year-old Zhao, who cast real-life nomads alongside McDormand to show the lives of older Americans who travel from job to job trying to scrape together a living. 

Zhao was also nominated for best film editing and best adapted screenplay but did not win in those categories.

‘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.

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.

In Shanghai, a livestream of the awards show hosted by Zhao’s alma mater New York University ran into China’s Great Firewall, as the organizer’s access to his virtual private network (VPN) service was blocked for nearly two hours.

‘They cut the VPN,’ event organizer Kevin Ke said, adding his WeChat account was shut down after he wrote a post praising Zhao.

Zhao courted favor by quoting a Chinese poem during her acceptance speech which children in her native country learn by heart, and whose message is ‘people are good at birth’

The Oscars ceremony took place in Union Station on Sunday night as largely mask-less stars sat at socially distanced tables

But 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.

Zhao went into the Oscars ceremony as the front-runner after picking up trophies from the Directors Guild of America, the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and multiple film critic groups.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Vista, California; Additional reporting by Emily Chow in Shanghai and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Howard Goller)

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