China blanks out first Oscar award to Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao

K J M Varma
·3-min read

Beijing, Apr 26 (PTI) Beijing-born filmmaker Chloe Zhao, who won two Oscars and became the first Asian woman to win the best director award, ironically made no waves in her homeland as her name was either censored or downplayed by the Chinese government and the official media here.

She was officially shunned in China for remarks in a 2013 interview to Filmmaker magazine where Zhao reportedly described her teenage years in China as “a place where there are lies everywhere”.

“A lot of info I received when I was younger was not true, and I became very rebellious toward my family and my background,' Zhao was quoted by the BBC as saying.

On Monday there was a deafening silence in China about the Chinese-born, British-educated, US-based Zhao’s victory which hit the world headlines as she was the first woman of colour and only the second woman at all - to win the best director award at the Oscars.

“I don’t think that is a diplomatic question”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin shot back when asked about Zhao’s historic feat and reports of her name being censored both by the official media and the social media, Weibo, akin to Twitter in China.

Zhao also won the best picture for Nomadland, her third feature film.

News of Zhao winning Oscars for her movie has either been downplayed or censored in China, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

No Chinese media live streamed the event and there was no mention of the 39-year-old’s Oscar wins from the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency, China’s official mouthpieces.

On social media, there was also little discussion on the subject. On Douban, the popular Chinese film review and community forum, there’s no topic dedicated to the 93rd Academy Awards.

Individual bloggers on Weibo and WeChat, the two most-used social media platforms in the mainland, found their posts heavily censored, the report said.

Guda Baihua, a popular Weibo influencer with 13 million fans, who mostly translates news of US shows, commentaries and live events, sent out a video of Zhao’s acceptance speech with the vague title “A speech at an Academy Award” to evade the censors.

But two hours later, his video was taken down.

He later showed a screenshot of a message from Weibo saying the video “did not pass Weibo reviews”.

Chinese netizens questioned whether Zhao, who was educated in the UK and the US, could be regarded as a Chinese citizen.

The public scrutiny intensified when the quotes from her 2013 interview surfaced.

Zhao’s description of China, where she spent her teenage years, as “a place where there are lies everywhere” was much criticised.

Some found the comment offensive and accused her of “insulting China”.

Since then, publicity about the film has been removed from social media in China and it has caused heated debate.

Nationalist commentators said Zhao had betrayed her country, while others called to keep filmmaking out of politics, according to the Post report. PTI KJV RUP RUP RUP