“In Hollywood, ‘Nomadland’ did not tick any box”

Empire, a mining town in Nevada, has practically become a ghost since the company that erected it went out of business. When her husband dies, Fern, in her sixties, has to leave her house, with the sole solution of living in her motorhome – seasonal and poorly paid jobs.

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Best Film, Best Director for Chloé Zhao, Best Actress for Frances McDormand, Nomadland, acclaimed at the Oscars after his Golden Lion in Venice, is a silent and melancholy road movie. Dramatic America at sunset, filmed at wide-angle in natural light. Behind there is Nomadland, investigation. A book by Jessica Bruder (J’ai Lu, 2019) who lived three years among these “van dwellers”, homeless, retirees without resources and left out of subprime.

Read the book review: “Nomadland”: thousands of kilometers with the new American nomads

Going from the Nevada desert to the Hollywood golds is surprising, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s strange, but everything is strange right now. I have been working on the subject for ten years. In 2011, I started investigating Empire, the ghost town we see at the start of the film. Then, in 2013, in an article, I read that Amazon had developed a program to make retirees work extra. It was there that I met this world that lives on the road. The paper made the front page of Harper’s in 2014. And, three years later, it became a book… Now the Oscars. It was unexpected. If we think of Hollywood stereotypes – youth, war, sex, drugs, violence… – we didn’t tick any boxes.

Did you feel that your book was respected?

People would like me to type on the film. It is pointed out that I got hired at Amazon and that the film does not talk much about Amazon… But I was not expecting a documentary. He corresponds to what I felt, with a feeling of déjà vu, and he is respectful of the people who placed their trust in Chloe Zhao… Beyond that, I think the investigative books and the films fiction are two totally different media. If the director had followed the book to the letter, it wouldn’t have made a good movie. The first time I met Chloe, in a Korean restaurant in Manhattan, I remember saying to her: “You are the chef, and it’s my job to open the pantry and put all the ingredients in. on the table. You are going to make the meal, I tasted the last ones you prepared, and they were delicious. “

Read the film review: In “Nomadland”, the bravery number of Frances McDormand

You mean “Songs that my brothers taught me” (2015) and “The Rider” (2017), in which Chloé Zhao has, like you, an approach that goes through immersion. She in the movies, you in journalism. Is this what attracted her to “Nomadland”?

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