Chloé Zhao made history twice over at the Oscar Sunday night. For her direction of exquisite Western road drama Nomadland, Zhao won the Academy Award for Best Director — making her the first Asian woman, and only the second woman ever, to win the award in the Oscars’ 93-year history. Later in the night, Nomadland won Best Picture, making it the first Best Picture winner to be entirely female-led, and the first one directed by a woman of color. But her historic wins felt muted in the U.S. press thanks to a chaotic ceremony, while they were nowhere to be seen in China’s press. Which would seem odd, since Zhao hails from China. But it seems to have been the result of CCP censorship.
According to The New York Times, the Chinese government has imposed censors online for any and all discussions of Zhao’s historic Oscar wins. Per the report, Chinese social media platforms have been deleting articles and posts about the Oscars and Zhao, “forcing many internet users and fans to use homonyms and wordplay to evade the censors.” Commenters have resorted to blurring out her name and the film’s title, writting them backwards, flipping images, and adding slashes between characters just to post about Zhao’s win without being deleted. Additionally, reporters at state-controlled news outlets were allegedly told not to cover the Oscars.
So why this government-led campaign against Zhao? You would think China would eagerly laud the filmmaker, who was born in Beijing and whose father is known as one of the country’s top steel industry executives. Despite Zhao’s career in the States, she retains her Chinese citizenship.
It all stems from a 2013 article in which Zhao criticized Chinese censorship. In an interview with an American film magazine, Zhao called China a place “where there are lies everywhere.” That sparked the recent nationalist backlash against Zhao, which was fed even further by a misquote from the filmmaker in an interview with an Australian site, in which she was quoted as saying, “The U.S. is now my country, ultimately.” (The website later corrected the interview to say that Zhao had actually said “not my country.”) But still, the damage was done and Zhao was labeled as anti-CCP (ironic, considering the discourse in the U.S. that called Nomadland Amazon propaganda) — a controversy that was exacerbated by rising geo-political tensions between China and the U.S.
As for Zhao, she hasn’t spoken about this apparent targeted campaign against her by the CCP. In her acceptance speech for Best Director, she paid tribute to her Chinese roots, citing a line from a 13th-century classical text that she had memorized as a child growing up in China: “People at birth are inherently good.”
Cool Posts From Around the Web: