Chloe Zhao: AAPI Heritage Month Filmmaker Highlights

She's the winner of this year's Best Director and Best Picture Oscars. Chloe Zhao, the incredible filmmaker, is today's highlight.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Chloe Zhao AAPI Heritage Month Nomadland

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Chloe Zhao is an easy person to highlight for AAPI Heritage Month. She gives some of the best awards speeches around, and she's one of the hottest directors in the biz.

How You Know Her

Zhao just won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for "Nomadland." And she was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

Her earlier films "Songs My Brother Taught Me" (2015) and "The Rider" (2018) were indie breakouts that established her unique style, incorporating a lot of natural environments and real-life people.

©Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection

©Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection

Later this year, Zhao makes her debut as an MCU filmmaker. She'll helm the all-star superhero ensemble "Eternals." The film stars Angelina Jolie and a super jacked-up Kumail Nanjiani.

Her Life So Far

Zhao was born in Beijing in 1982 to a steel executive and a hospital worker. Early on, Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together" inspired her love of movies.

At age 15, Zhao's parents sent her to a UK boarding school. She finished high school in Los Angeles, and then attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Later, she completed her graduate film program at NYU.

"Songs My Brothers Taught Me" tells the story of a brother and sister on a South Dakota reservation. Zhao says the confined environment was something she could relate to. After all, her own upbringing in China was restrictive. Subsequently, the movie was nominated for Best First Feature at the Indie Spirit Awards.

Real cowboy Brady Jandreau inspired the filmmaker's second movie, "The Rider." The rodeo rider's life formed the basis for the film, which follows his journey after a head injury. After its release, the film was nominated for a Best Director Indie Spirt Award.

Zhao's third film "Nomadland" took the current awards season by storm. It won top honors at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

The film is a poignant look at real-life US nomads, and one played by Best Actress winner Frances McDormand. The pacing doesn't scream "blockbuster action," but there's plenty of anticipation for Zhao's next big budget project. That would be MCU epic "Eternals."

The Movie to Watch

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

"Nomadland" earns its Best Picture win. It's an epic and intimate story about real people who are unique and American. Zhao uses her camera to embrace their beauty in a film filled with everyday humanity.

Nomadland Poster




February 19, 2021

Watch on

What's Next

Chloe Zhao is an exceptional filmmaker worth celebrating during AAPI Heritage Month. What happens when this indie director takes on commercial moviemaking? With the release of "Eternals" on Nov. 5, we'll all find out. We can't wait.

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango,, MediaTrip, and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

More from Chuck Walton

Be the First to Know.

Get articles like this and the latest movie news in your inbox.

Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.