On Thursday night, Nomadland‘s Oscars push was further bolstered by four wins at the virtually held 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards, in the categories of Best Picture, Director, Editing and Cinematography.
The former award went to producers Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears and Chloé Zhao, with Zhao also claiming prizes for Director and Editing, and Joshua James Richards taking home the statuette for Cinematography.
“In our film, Bob Wells says to [McDormand’s] Fern that you’ve come to the right place to connect with your tribe, your community,” said Asher, in her Best Picture acceptance speech, “and Independent Film, you are our community.”
“We couldn’t have done it without all the hearts and hands of our fellow collaborators, our fellow filmmakers, who were the Nomadland company,” added Janvey, “so to all of you, we accept this on your behalf.”
While the Indie Spirits aren’t a perfect bellwether for the Oscars, its picks for Best Feature were in keeping with the Academy’s each year between 2013-2016. Films winning in that period included Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight), Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman (Searchlight), Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (Open Road Films) and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight (A24). Other films that have taken Best Picture at both the Indie Spirits and the Oscars include Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist (2011).
At present, Nomadland is looking like the leading contender in the Oscars’ Best Picture and Director categories, and the film may factor in craft areas, as well. Throughout this year’s unusual awards season, the indie drama has picked up Golden Globes for Best Picture and Director, four BAFTA Awards (Picture, Director, Leading Actress, Cinematography), the British Independent Film Award for Best International Independent Film, four Critics’ Choice Awards (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography), Camerimage’s Golden Frog, a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, two Gotham Awards (Best Feature, Audience Award), the National Board of Review Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, the USC Scripter Award, and the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion among other accolades.
Whether or not Nomadland wins out at the Oscars, Zhao has already made history as one of only seven women ever nominated for Best Director. She is also the first Chinese woman, and the first woman of color ever to be nominated in the category.
“I’m really lucky to be able to do what I love for a living,” Zhao said tonight during her virtual appearance backstage, “and if these nominations mean it can help more people like me to live their dreams, I think they’re wonderful.”
Zhao also noted that she’s excited to be reunited in person with her collaborators at the upcoming Oscars ceremony, teasing the presence of “special guests” involved with the production. (Most likely, that would be one or two of the non-professional actors appearing in the pic.)
Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland centers on Fern (McDormand), a woman in her 60s who journeys through the American West, as a modern-day, van-dwelling nomad, after losing everything in the Great Recession. Released in select theaters in the U.S. on January 29, the film debuted on Hulu on February 19.