Chloé Zhao’s road drama “Nomadland” starring Frances McDormand, will screen at Venice, Toronto and New York as part of the fall festivals’ solidarity pact in the wake of the pandemic. It will also play as part of a special Telluride-hosted drive-in event.
Zhao’s third film will world premiere with simultaneous screenings on Sept. 11 at Venice and Toronto, both of which will feature virtual introductions by producer, writer, editor and director Zhao (“The Rider,” “The Eternals”), and producer and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” star McDormand.
Meanwhile, Telluride, which canceled its 47th edition due to the pandemic, will host a special “Telluride from Los Angeles” drive-in screening later in the evening, featuring in-person appearances by Zhao and McDormand. In addition, New York Film Festival will screen the film as the Centerpiece Selection of the 58th edition of the festival, leading into a domestic theatrical release this fall, and subsequently rolling out internationally.
Searchlight Pictures picked up worldwide rights to writer-director Zhao’s “Nomadland” in February 2019, and coordinated the events in tandem with festival programmers to salute the collaboration between the fests.
The Venice, Toronto, Telluride and New York Film Festivals revealed earlier this month that they would be joining forces in an alliance that would see them collaborate, rather than compete, in a spirit of post-pandemic solidarity. Details of what exactly the pact meant, however, were initially sparse, and since that time, Telluride was canceled.
The statement first announcing the alliance provided no specifics around what concrete form it would take, beyond saying that the festivals will offer “a united platform for the best cinema we can find.” News of the shared screening of “Nomadland” goes some way in answering questions about how the festivals’ collaboration will ultimately manifest, particularly in a year when the pressure of launching awards season movies is slightly lifted due to the Oscars’ date shift to April.
“Nomadland” follows Fern (McDormand), a woman in her sixties, who after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. The film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. The movie is based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” which McDormand and Peter Spears optioned soon after it was published in 2017.
“Nomadland” is a Highwayman Films, Hear/Say Productions, and Cor Cordium Productions project. The film is produced by McDormand, Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, and Zhao.
“The American road fascinates me. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful and deeply complicated. I’ve traveled it for many years and always hoped to capture a glimpse of it. I’m thankful to be able to make ‘Nomadland’ and excited for audiences to join Fern on her adventure,” said Zhao.
“‘Nomadland’ is a true cinematic discovery,” said Searchlight Pictures chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula. “We are grateful to Chloé and the entire ‘Nomadland’ filmmaking team and to the festival community that is essential to the success of independent films, and we thank Alberto and Giulia, Julie and Tom, Cameron and Joana, and Eugene and Dennis for the opportunity to be a part of this unique time in our industry’s changing landscape. Chloé reminds us that film has the power to connect us no matter how far apart we might seem. We hope this special film can move audiences across the world and further support global cinema.”
Calling the film a “brave and touching journey,” Venice director Alberto Barbera said the film “acquires particular meaning in a moment of pandemic-induced seclusion, proving that values like mutual support and a strong sense of community can save us from solitude, failure, and despair.”
Toronto International Film Festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey added, “Frances McDormand’s heartbreaking performance and Chloé Zhao’s wise embrace of American outcasts make this a film everyone should see.”
Telluride Film Festival executive director Julie Huntsinger said, “Tom Luddy and I believe in her vision and are grateful to unite with our colleagues in Toronto, Venice, and New York to highlight this sensitive and stunning achievement.”
“We knew that Chloé Zhao’s masterful film ‘Nomadland,’ deserved a central spot at the New York Film Festival as soon as we saw it,” said Eugene Hernandez, director of the New York Film Festival, “It was hardly surprising to learn that the film had also resonated with our friends in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. We’re elated to share Chloé and Fran’s remarkable achievement with New York audiences this fall, in solidarity with our festival colleagues.”