June 24, 2021

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That’s why Chloé Zhao’s Oscar win was censored in China

That's why Chloé Zhao's Oscar win was censored in China


Nomadland director Chloe Zhao made history at Oscar 2021 on Sunday evening, becoming the first black woman to win the Best Director award in the institution’s 93-year history. She is only the second woman ever to receive the award, after Kathryn Bigelow’s victory The Hurt Locker In 2010.

In her acceptance speech, Zhao talked about his memories growing up in China and recited part of a poem called The Three Character Classic in Mandarin. The excerpt translates as “people at birth are inherently good”.

They win the Oscars, which preceded NomadlandThe Best Picture and Best Actress wins (for Frances McDormand) follow a Golden Globes-like scoop for Zhao, who was born in Beijing, and also became the first Asian woman to collect that award. That same night, Yuh-Jung Youn became the first Korean actress to win an Academy Award for her role in Minari. Both of these firsts are milestones, especially given Hollywood’s long history fetishize, stereotype or exclude Asian women in front of the camera – in more than nine decades, the Academy Awards have honored fewer than two dozen Asian artists in acting categories and, when it did, rewarded the roles they trade in harmful tropes or stereotypes.

While Zhao’s success has been praised as a major breakthrough in behind-the-camera portrayal this awards season, efforts to celebrate these firsts appear to have been dampened in China, where reports of censorship and media silence emerged on Monday.

Why does China censor Chloé Zhao e Nomadland

Chinese state media initially referred to Zhao as “the pride of China“After his best director’s win at the Golden Globes last month. But the year brought to light the 2013 interview with the American publication Filmmaker Magazinis, where Zhao talked about growing up as a teenager in China and calling it “a place where there are lies everywhere”, soon caused a backlash and reports of censorship on social media sites, as well as criticism of Zhao by social media users, reported the New York Times.

Since its initial publication, the 2013 article has been “edited and condensed,” according to a note on Director’s magazinewebsite of, with the widely quoted part referring to Zhao’s education in China now omitted.

China’s two largest state media, CCTV and Xinhua, have not reported on Zhao’s victory since Monday afternoon, although the state newspaper Global Times and its publisher Hu Xijin did it Tweet their congratulations to the director. “Chloe Zhao wins best director”, a hashtag on the popular microblogging site Weibo, has been censored and inaccessible to users, you Associate Press reported Monday. The AP also reported that searches for “Nomadland” and “Zhao Ting” (Zhao’s name in Chinese) were banned from the Douban app, while an article about Zhao’s victory over the hugely popular Chinese network app WeChat was deleted. According to Reuters, organizers of a live streaming event in Shanghai were unable to watch the ceremony as planned on Monday morning, as the organizer said access to his virtual private network was blocked for nearly two hours.

What did Chloé Zhao say about China?

When he was 14 in the 1990s, Zhao moved to the UK to study in boarding school.

“A lot of information I received when I was younger was not true and I became very rebellious towards my family and my past. I went to England all of a sudden and relearned my story, “Zhao said in the original 2013 version. Director’s magazine article, according to an archived version still available online. “Studying political science in a liberal arts college was a way for me to understand what is real. Arm yourself with information and then challenge that too. “

In conversation with Moonlight director Barry Jenkins for Variety, Zhao talked about growing up in China with a love of manga, saying that “we didn’t have movies when I was little, not in the same way that you guys had access to movies, but I only had Japanese Manga lockers and lockers. Li I just devoured. ”

Zhao later moved to the United States and studied political science before enrolling in the film undergraduate program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2010, where Spike Lee was her professor. His first feature film, Songs my brother taught me, was killed on a Native American reservation in South Dakota and released in 2015, and her entourage The pilot, a contemporary Western drama, was released in 2017.

However, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. In a recent profile in New York Magazine, Zhao talked about his travels around the world and his Chinese heritage, describing the North Chinese as “my people“And being” from China. “He also spoke earlier about feeling like a stranger and how that interacts with his cinema, telling Telegraph that “wherever I have gone in life, I have always felt like a stranger. So I am naturally attracted to other people who live in the suburbs or who do not live traditional lifestyles”.

Zhao was praised on Twitter for speaking Mandarin in her acceptance speech. “If this win helps more people like me to live out their dreams, I’m really grateful,” Zhao told reporters backstage Sunday night, adding that her parents had always told her “who you are is enough, and who you are is yours. art.”

The history of Hollywood censorship in China

Sunday night’s awards ceremony was not screened in China.

Hong Kong broadcaster TVB, which has aired Oscars every year since 1969, said it won’t do so this year for commercial reasons. The decision fueled speculation that it was politically motivated and raised concerns about freedom of expression, aggravated by the appointment of Don’t divide, a 35-minute film by Norwegian director Anders Hammery about the Hong Kong protests selected for the best short-subject documentary. The makers of the winning documentary short film Colette he motioned for Hammer to enter their acceptance speech, stating that “the Hong Kong protesters have not been forgotten”.

China’s economic power and middle class have grown exponentially over the past two decades, as has Beijing’s ability to command foreign directors eager to reach Chinese audiences. This year’s Oscars ceremony isn’t the first Hollywood cultural export that the Chinese government has censored or tried to control. Ace TIME reported in 2017, “The pleasure of the Chinese public – and a Chinese central government hyperallergic to criticism – is now part of the Hollywood formula.”

A report from last year by PEN America suggests that control has only increased, arguing that filmmakers around the world must make tough decisions about the “content, casting, plot, dialogue and setting” of their films to appease Chinese investors and guardians. The report suggested that the 2016 Marvel movie Doctor Strange whitened the Tibetan character The Ancient One (eventually played by Tilda Swinton) “for fear of jeopardizing the film’s chances in China” and that the Taiwanese flag was removed from the trailer for the Top Gun sequel, originally scheduled for 2019 but postponed to 2021. The report also refers to Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was pulled from the film’s release schedule in China a week before release in 2019, reportedly due to Bruce Lee’s unflattering portrayal.

This is unlikely to be the case Nomadland, an indie film that follows modern-day nomads in the American Midwest, would find a large audience in mainland China. But Zhao’s next feature, the Marvel blockbuster The Eternals, it may ask further questions upon its release in November.