When the Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and New York film festivals announced earlier this month that they would band together as “a united platform” in response to the challenges of staging a public event during a global pandemic, many wondered what such an international cooperation might look like. As of today, we have a pretty good idea. On September 11, Venice and Toronto will present simultaneous first-ever screenings of Nomadland with virtual introductions by writer and director Chloé Zhao and coproducer and star Frances McDormand. Later that same day, Zhao and McDormand will appear in person for a special “Telluride from Los Angeles” drive-in screening. And then a few weeks later, Nomadland will screen as the centerpiece presentation of New York’s fifty-eighth edition.
Zhao has based her story on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, which Arlie Russell Hochschild, writing for the New York Times, has called a “brilliant and haunting” portrait of “a growing number of older people, post-recession refugees from the middle and working class,” who are “crossing the land in their Jeeps, campers, and repurposed buses in search of work.” McDormand will play Fern, who leaves her rural town in Nevada and heads west, meeting and learning from other nomads along the way.
Born in Beijing, and having studied in London and Los Angeles, Zhao developed her first feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, at Sundance, where it premiered in 2015 before traveling to Cannes. There, Songs screened in the Directors’ Fortnight program, which, two years later, premiered Zhao’s second feature. The Rider was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards and won the Gotham Award for best feature. In February, Zhao completed shooting on The Eternals, an extravagant entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, and Kumail Nanjiani. Disney currently has February 12, 2021, pencilled in as the release date for The Eternals.
Venice will unveil its full 2020 lineup tomorrow, and over the weekend, the festival announced that filmmakers Veronika Franz, Joanna Hogg, Christian Petzold, and Cristi Puiu; writer Nicola Lagioia; and actor Ludivine Sagnier will join Cate Blanchett when she presides over the international jury. Claire Denis will serve as president of the jury of the Orizzonti section, a program of daring work that might be roughly compared to the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.
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