Oscar-tipped road movie Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, on Friday raced from Venice to Toronto to California as major global festivals joined forces to jump-start the pandemic-stricken film industry.
Its fast-rising director, Chloe Zhao, is to oversee next year’s Marvel superhero epic Eternals.
The movie about a community of elderly, nomadic idealists who roam across the US in worn-out vans was greeted by raucous honking horns and flashing headlights at a drive-in US premiere in Pasadena, on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Hours earlier, double Oscar-winner McDormand had received loud applause in Venice for her role as a widow forced to take to the road after a mine closes, wiping her tiny community from the map.
“I told my husband ... when I turned 65 I was gonna change my name to Fern, start smoking Lucky Strikes, drinking Wild Turkey and hit the road in my RV. I got to do that four years early,” McDormand told the California screening.
Speaking to an audience of Hollywood industry and press — unable to travel to foreign festivals this year due to COVID-19 pandemic — McDormand said living on the road in basic conditions during filming had taught her humility.
“I didn’t know how to take a dump in my five-gallon bucket,” she joked.
The movie has received glowing reviews, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it “a unique portrait of outsider existence” and Variety a “tender ode to American independence.”
In regular years, movie festivals compete to host world premieres of such buzzy titles.
However, a truce has been struck this year, with Toronto festival cohead Cameron Bailey telling reporters that it “didn’t make sense to be competitive this year, with so much at stake.”
The night’s California screening was organized by the Telluride festival — one of several forced to entirely cancel its regular screenings due to a pandemic that has delayed the Oscars and halted filming across Hollywood.
Also debuting in multiple time zones this week was One Night in Miami, an adaptation of a play imagining a heated 1964 motel room conversation between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.
Director Regina King (Watchmen) told a Toronto festival virtual news conference that she “wanted to do a film that was a love story with a historical backdrop.”
As well as depicting the four men’s real-life friendship, the movie examines how each coped with the hostility faced by successful African-American men in the civil rights era.
Completed in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and mass anti-racism protests in the US this summer, the movie’s themes are “just as relevant now as they were 60 years ago,” King added.
Halle Berry, another Academy Award-winning actress showing her debut feature as director in Toronto, said it was “heartbreaking” no other black woman had won the best actress Oscar since her triumph for Monster’s Ball almost two decades ago.
She stars as a former martial arts fighter struggling to regain custody of her son in Bruised, reportedly purchased by Netflix on Friday, hours before its Toronto premiere.
The Venice film festival concluded yesterday, while Toronto runs through Sunday next week.
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