'Nomadland': AAPI Heritage Month Must-See Movies

Today during AAPI Heritage Month, we're recommending "Nomadland," winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Director for Chloe Zhao.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Nomadland AAPI Heritage Month Chloe Zhao Frances McDormand

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

"Nomadland" is today's must-see movie for AAPI Heritage Month. Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao won Best Director and Frances McDormand won Best Actress. Both, as producers, earned Best Picture Academy Awards.

The Movie

"Nomadland" (trailer here) is a visually stunning, emotionally moving, meditative showcase. It tells the story of a woman who, after the death of her husband, takes up life as a "nomad." She buys a van and travels across the country. She picks up work where she can get it and has an adventurous life on her own terms. She comes across other real-life nomads, and enjoys the simple, minimalist rewards as well as challenges of the lifestyle.

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

During the pandemic year, "Nomadland" became a resonant investigation of the meanings we find in life. The film casts a spotlight on untethered souls that travel across the heartland, and the realities and freedom they find in it.

The AAPI Connection

As with her first two films "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" and "The Rider," filmmaker Chloe Zhao has a deep sense of humanity and curiosity she deploys in her AAPI masterpiece "Nomadland." Star Frances McDormand is her character Fern. She's fiercely independent, resourceful, liberated. She lives on her own terms and accepts everything that comes along with that. Zhao's film has Fern experience deeply moving interatctions with real-life nomads. David Strathairn is one of the few other actors in the film. He plays Fern's friend who also loves her.

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

The director's style allows for the scenes to be unhurried, and compels viewers to exist in this space. In the end, nomad life may not be everyone. But after seeing Zhao's compassionate view of these real people, it's impossible not to be moved by them. You'll also hope to "see them down the road."

Why You Should See It

There's good reason why "Nomadland" was the most critically acclaimed film of the year. It's a special motion picture experience, and one movie lovers can surrender to. Zhao and McDormand and everyone involved reveal a truth in the film. There is an integrity and soul in "Nomadland," plus a wandering spirit that represents real freedom.

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

© Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Did You Know

In true indie spirit fashion, McDormand and producer Peter Spears approached Chloe Zhao about the project at the 2018 Indie Spirit Awards. Zhao's "The Rider" and McDormand's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" both competed at the show. From that meeting, Zhao agreed to co-produce, direct and write this year's Best Picture.

Chuck Walton

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

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