Chinese director's film wins audience choice award at Chicago Int'l Film Festival

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The 56th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) announced four winners of the Audience Choice Awards on Wednesday. Among them there is a feature by a Chinese film director.

"Nomadland" by Chloe Zhao or Zhao Ting won Audience Choice Award for Best English-Language Feature.

"Nomadland" presents Frances McDormand (Fern) setting off on the road to explore a life as a modern-day nomad after the economic collapse of a town in rural Nevada. Being the third feature film from Zhao, "Nomadland" features real nomads as Fern's mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

Born and raised in Beijing, China, Zhao attended grade school in London and Los Angeles, and studied political science at Mount Holyoke College and film production at New York University. Her debut feature film, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" released in 2015, premiered at Sundance Film Festival and earned a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Zhao's second feature film, "The Rider" released in 2017, received nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and Best Director.

"Nomadland," released in 2020, has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa's "Under the Open Sky" won the Best International Feature Audience Choice Award. The lead actor Yakusho Koji won the Best Performance Silver Hugo Award at CIFF last week.

The other films that received the Audience Choice Awards include Chicago-made "The Road Up" for Best Documentary, and "To: Gerard," a seven-minute animation, for the Best Short Film Audience Choice Award.

"In this largely virtual edition, our enthusiastic audiences viewed (films) at the drive-in and virtually to cast their votes and select these winners," said CIFF Managing Director Vivian Teng.

Teng said that CIFF is "incredibly grateful to have shared a strong slate of remarkable films with our audiences."

Featuring more than 120 films and shorts from around the world, the 56th CIFF concluded this year's unusual festival via drive-in and live-stream with the announcement of the Audience Choice Awards. 

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