The 100 Most Influential People of 2021
Austin Hargrave—AUGUST
By Ang Lee
September 15, 2021 7:19 AM EDT

Chloé Zhao seized the world’s attention with her 2017 film The Rider, a sparse and stunning portrait of a struggling Native American family in South Dakota. And she did so again with Nomadland, for which she became the first Asian woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. With a compassionate eye, she deftly weaves together narrative and documentary in a way that captures the spirit of the characters’ inner selves, allowing us to see into their lives and truly understand them. Even her heartbreakingly beautiful objective shots are a reflection of the mind—deeply sad, yet incredibly kind.

Chloé seems to be a nomad in a strange land, a rebellious wanderer without a home. But that freedom comes with an edge: a special point of view that unburdens her from the usual familiarity with a culture and its subconscious ideas of what should be. Through that lens, she is able to observe incisively, to grasp sharply the essence of a story and portray it with deep empathy, without judgment or commentary.

Chloé is a true gem of an artist. Her study of human beings searching for their place in the world is uniquely compelling. In a world of divisiveness, her vision is something precious.

Lee is an Oscar-winning director

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