The APAHM Project 2021 Day 15: Nomadland
I realize the photo and the original APAHM Calendar has “Nomadland” slated for May 31st. But due to an insane amount of work and a lack of preparation on my part, I wasn’t able to get my notes together for my guest for May 15th. So in an attempt to pivot, I went with a movie that I’ve already seen. “Columbus” (Day 15’s original movie) will be posted later this month. But of course, I still ended up posting this late anyway, so here we are!
Directed by: Chloe Zhao
Where to Watch: Hulu
Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2020
Why it Made the List:
”Nomadland“ made history in more than one way this year. The film, written, directed, produced, and edited by Chinese filmmaker, Chloe Zhao, won 3 Academy Awards as well as 227 other wins and 135 nominations. Zhao made history for being the first woman of color and second woman overall to win Best Director in the 93 year run of the Oscars.
You’ll notice that “Nomadland“ is the only film on the APAHM calendar that doesn’t have an AAPI actor at its center. In fact, it hardly has any actors at its center. Frances McDormand and David Strathairn (who is actually 1/16 Chinese and part Hawaiian) are the only two actors in the entire movie. The other characters are played by actual real-life nomads.
Because of Zhao’s casting choices, the film feels incredibly genuine and grounded. The way they speak about their lives as nomads and learning how to live on the road is almost in the style of a documentary. We follow a woman named Fern (McDormand) who, after the passing of her husband and the Great Recession, loses her job in Empire, Nevada. Choosing a life on the road, she jumps from job to job in the American Midwest, making friends with other nomads along the way.
Normally a movie like this would seem very boring to me. The subject matter is not something I would gravitate towards. But thanks to McDermond’s acting and Zhao’s direction, the film does an excellent job in capturing your attention. You begin the have a great appreciation for your home, your indoor plumbing, your job. But at the same time, you have a deep sense of admiration towards these people who have chosen this lifestyle; to detach from the world, to find out what is truly of value to them, and to travel through the country. More so, it takes an immense amount of courage to leave your things and the ones you love behind. I know that I jump from city to city and job to job, but these people had labor intensive occupatIons. They worked extremely hard to be able to make enough to survive off of.
The reason why “Nomadland” hits the way it does is because Zhao really did cast nomads. We got to see into their lives, into their homes. When Swankie was able to go see the swallows on her kayak trip, we cheer. When the nomadic community lost Swankie, we cried. It makes the film so tangible and makes you invested in their lifestyle because the passion they have for the nomadic lifestyle is magnetic and contagious. I had often heard that a huge component to directing is casting, and whether or not that is true for all movies, I feel like this is the case for “Nomadland.”
I was hesitant to include this film because I didn’t want to just throw it in because it won Best Picture and it didn’t star an AAPI actor. But I couldn’t deny the historical moment and its significance when Zhao won Best Director and Best Picture. I watched the Oscars alone this year, and as I sat and listened to Bong Joon Ho read off the nominees for Best Director (which included a historical 2 women nominees), and announced Zhao’s name, I was instantly in tears. I sat on my bed crying and it was something totally unexpected. I had seen the movie, I loved it, I wanted her to win. But I could have never guessed it would bring me to tears. To suddenly have your dreams validated, to feel seen, the experience representation on that level was unreal. Don’t let anyone ever tell you Representation doesn’t matter.
Zhao delivers such a human experience in “Nomadland.” Not only that, she was able to humanize her characters and her story. And although it may seem terribly mundane on the outside, this film was able to reach out and connect us to a world of people who are often unseen or misjudged. The human connection, the ability to make us sympathize with these people, not only taking us for a ride but making us willingly strap ourselves in, was something Zhao was able to achieve through her filmmaking. In a time where the world needs to empathize with its fellowman, Zhao delivers a film that reminds us how.
Stop Hate and Donate:
**A Reminder! I will be matching donations from this blog post based upon the number of likes it gets! Share this post and tell your friends to like this post!**
Today’s donation link is for Suncha Kim, one of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings that happened in March 2021. Kim immigrated to the US from South Korea in the 1980s and worked 2 to 3 jobs to support her family.
Donations will go towards Kim’s family, which include her two children and three grandchildren. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe page.
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