Chloé Zhao

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Chloé Zhao
Zhao in 2015
Zhao Ting

(1982-03-31) March 31, 1982 (age 37)
Alma mater
Years active2008–present
Chloé Zhao
Traditional Chinese趙婷
Simplified Chinese赵婷

Chloé Zhao (born Zhao Ting; March 31, 1982)[1] is a Chinese-American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Her debut feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Her second feature film, The Rider (2017), was critically acclaimed and received several accolades including nominations for Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and Best Director.

Early life[edit]

Zhao Ting was born and raised in Beijing to Zhao Yuji, former general manager of a state-owned steel company.[2][3] Her parents are separated and her father remarried to actress Song Dandan. Growing up, she was very rebellious, and drawn to influences from Western pop culture.[4] She attended a boarding school in London before moving to Los Angeles to finish high school.[5] Zhao studied at Mount Holyoke College earning a bachelor's degree in political science.[6] She worked odd jobs as a party promoter, in real estate, and bartending before studying film production at New York University Tisch School of the Arts.[2][7]


In 2010, Zhao's short film Daughters premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and won Best Student Live Action Short at the 2010 Palm Springs International ShortFest and Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Cinequest Film Festival.[8][9]

In 2015, Zhao directed her first feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Filmed on location at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the film depicts the relationship between a Lakota Sioux brother and his younger sister. The film premiered as part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival.[10] It later played at Cannes Film Festival as part of the Director's Fortnight selection.[11] The film was nominated for Best First Feature at the 31st Independent Spirit Awards.[12]

Zhao at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

In 2017, she directed The Rider, a contemporary western drama which follows a young cowboy’s journey to discover himself after a near-fatal accident ends his professional riding career.[13] Similar to her first feature, Zhao utilised a cast of non-actors who lived on the ranch where the film was shot.[14] Zhao's impetus for making the film came when Brady Jandreau – a cowboy whom she met and befriended on the reservation where she shot her first film – suffered a severe head injury when he was thrown off his horse during a rodeo competition.[15] Jandreau later starred in the film playing a fictionalised version of himself as Brady Blackburn. The film premiered at Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors' Fortnight selection and won the Art Cinema Award.[16] The film earned her nominations for Best Feature and Best Director at the 33rd Independent Spirit Awards. At the same ceremony, Zhao became the inaugural winner of the Bonnie Award, named after Bonnie Tiburzi, which recognizes a mid-career female director.[17][18] The film was released on April 13, 2018 by Sony Pictures Classics and was critically acclaimed.[19] Peter Keough of The Boston Globe wrote: "[The film] achieves what cinema is capable of at its best: It reproduces a world with such acuteness, fidelity, and empathy that it transcends the mundane and touches on the universal."[20]

Upcoming projects[edit]

In April 2018, it was announced that Amazon Studios greenlit Zhao's upcoming untitled Bass Reeves biopic, a historical Western about the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal. Zhao is set to direct the film and write the screenplay.[21] In September 2018, Marvel Studios hired her to direct The Eternals, based on the race of the same name.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Zhao resides in California, United States.[2]


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2015 Songs My Brothers Taught Me Yes Yes Yes Also editor
2017 The Rider Yes Yes Yes
2020 The Eternals Yes No No Filming
TBA Nomadland Yes Yes Yes Post-production


Critical and commercial reception to Zhao's directorial features.

Film Rotten Tomatoes[23] Metacritic[24] BFCA[25] Budget Box office[26]
Songs My Brothers Taught Me 91% (22 reviews) 63 (10 reviews) 65/100 N/A $0.1 million
The Rider 97% (147 reviews) 92 (42 reviews) 96/100 N/A $3.4 million


  1. ^ Sam Fragoso (April 15, 2018). "Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso" (Podcast). Talk Easy. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Powers, John (March 23, 2018). "How Chloé Zhao Reinvented the Western". Vogue. Condé Nast. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "赵婷(华语影视女导演)". Baidu Baike (in Chinese). Baidu. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  4. ^ Mullen, Matt (April 13, 2018). "THE RIDER IS AN EARLY CONTENDER FOR BEST FILM OF 2018". Interview. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Gardiner, Margaret (May 23, 2017). "Chloé Zhao: A Woman Telling a Cowboys' Tale". Golden Globes. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  6. ^ "Chloé Zhao". Filmmaker. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  7. ^ Cohen, Sandy (March 2018). "Filmmaker Chloé Zhao is the Accidental Realist". American Way Magazine. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  8. ^ "CHLOÉ ZHAO". Adrienne Shelly Foundation. Archived from the original on 2015-07-08. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  9. ^ "TALENT GUIDE :: Chloe Zhao". Film Independent. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  10. ^ "Songs My Brothers Taught Me". Sundance. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  11. ^ Kang, Inkoo. "More Sundance Deals: 'Hot Girls Wanted,' '10,000 Saints,' 'Songs My Brother Taught Me'". Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  12. ^ "31st FiLM iNDEPENDENT SPiRiT AWARDS NOMiNATiONS ANNOUNCED". Film Independent. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Allen, Joseph (18 May 2017). "Cannes 2017 Women Directors: Meet Chloé Zhao — "The Rider"". Women and Hollywood. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  14. ^ Ponsoldt, James (March 8, 2018). "Rodeo Dream: Chloé Zhao on The Rider". Filmmaker. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  15. ^ Hodson, Hayley (June 9, 2018). "Chloe Zhao's 'The Rider' is riveting". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  16. ^ "Tisch Alumni Win Cannes Honors". Tisch School of the Arts. June 2, 2017. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  17. ^ "Spirit Awards Grants". Film Independent. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
  18. ^ "The Bonnie Award". Retrieved 2019-10-27.
  19. ^ "The Rider Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  20. ^ Keough, Peter (April 25, 2018). "'The Rider': What cinema is capable of at its best". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  21. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 20, 2018). "Amazon Studios Lands Biopic on Bass Reeves, First Black U.S. Deputy Marshal, From 'The Rider' Helmer Chloé Zhao". Deadline. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  22. ^ Kit, Borys (September 21, 2018). "Marvel Studios' 'The Eternals' Finds Its Director With Chloé Zhao". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 21, 2018. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  23. ^ "Chloé Zhao - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  24. ^ "Chloé Zhao Movies Profile - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  25. ^ "Critics Choice". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  26. ^ "Chloe Zhao - Box Office - The Numbers". The Numbers. Retrieved June 14, 2018.

External links[edit]