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The Beginner’s Guide to Chloé Zhao

The indie darling is set to become a household name with Oscar buzz and an upcoming Marvel film. Here’s a guide to her early work:
The Rider Chloé Zhao
Sony Pictures Classics
By  · Published on March 8th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay offering a beginner’s guide to the filmography of Chloé Zhao.


It is always a rewarding venture to visit the early films of a director you admire. John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974) is a revealing hint of the sardonic gait to come. The opening Buck Rogers serial that introduces THX 1138 (1971) feels like a pulpy thesis statement for George Lucas’ career. And the early films of Chloé Zhao underpin the tender, reflective, and observational eye that has come to distinguish her work.

Zhao recently made history as the first Asian woman to win in the Best Director category at the Golden Globes, for Nomadland (which also won Best Drama Motion Picture). It would be, as they say, a very safe bet to assume that Nomadland‘s Oscar buzz will actualize into a genuine nomination. That, coupled with Eternals, Zhao’s upcoming entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, strongly suggests that she is destined to become a huge name in film beyond the humble echelons of the indie scene.

In the interest of introducing newcomers to Zhao’s pre-Nomadland filmography and tracing the thematic and tonal ties throughout her work-to-date, the following video essay looks at her two first feature films: 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017’s The RiderThey are, to put it lightly, stupendous examples of what makes Zhao such an exciting director: unbridled compassion with a neo-Western sensibility.

Watch “A Beginner’s Guide to Chloé Zhao“:

Who made this?

This video comes courtesy of the fine folks at Little White Lies, a film-obsessed magazine based in the United Kingdom. Will Webb wrote and edited this video. You can follow Little White Lies on Twitter here. And you can check out their official website here. You can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).