Chloe Zhao's Historic Oscars Win Censored in China
Chloe Zhao is only the second woman to win the Academy award for 'Best Director'
China-born Chloe Zhao made history as only the second woman to win an Academy Award for best director, and as expected the world celebrated the step-forward towards better representation. Her film Nomadland also won the Oscar for 'Best Picture' and 'Best Actress'. In the 93 year history of the Academy, only one other woman has won the award for best director- Kathryn Bigelow took the prize in 2010 for film The Hurt Locker.
However, her win was snubbed in China where censors tried to hide any trace of the win including congratulatory messages. The awards ceremony aired in Beijing on Monday and social media was filled with celebration and congratulations but a majority had been erased by the afternoon.
Chinese publications usually applaud international wins but even the major publications like People’s Daily, state broadcaster CCTV, and Xinhua news agency didn't publish anything about Zhao's win.
At one point, Chinese media did appreciate Zhao's work. Xinhua published a piece as recently as 2020 praising the director's work. "All in all, this is a banner year for the shy filmmaker, Chloe Zhao, with the best yet to come as the Golden Globes and Oscar seasons continue to unfold, many pundits claim. Zhao has a unique vision which is serving her in good stead now," the article read.
NYT Asia Tech Columnist Li Yuan attributed the censorship to Zhaos criticism of China in 2013. She tweeted, "Instead of celebrating Chloé Zhao's wins at the Oscar and making the Chinese public feeling proud, Beijing is busy censoring her -- all for a criticism she made in 2013. For as long as I've been writing about Chinese censorship and propaganda, I still can't wrap my mind around it."
The Associated Press reported that Zhao described China as 'a place where there are lies everywhere' in an 2013 article in Filmmaker Magazine. The quote was since then deleted but some social media users brought up the comment over the past week.
However, fans found a way around the censorship, mostly by changing some words, editing images, or even creating hybrids in different languages. For example, Zhao's name becomes 赵Ting, half Chinese and half English.
In her acceptance speech, Zhao cited a popular Chinese text Three Character Classic but even original or translated versions of the acceptance speech are being removed from the internet. She also referenced her Confucian roots which help her remember that people are inherently good. Zhao's Nomadland is the story of an American woman living in a camper dwelling, after losing everything to the Great Recession. The film was scheduled for a China release on 23 April but was taken off the roster.
Zhao's next directorial is Marvel Studios' The Eternals is scheduled for a 3 November release in the US.
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