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Nomadland, which won the Oscar for best film, as well as best director for Zhao and best actress for star Frances McDormand, beat out an otherwise all-European lineup, including Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round — winner of the 2021 Oscar for best international feature — Jasmila Zbanic’s Oscar-nominated Quo Vadis, Aida?, Radu Jude’s Berlin festival winner Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, and Alexandre Koberidze’s Georgian drama What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? for the FIPRESCI Grand Prix 2021.
Zhao is the first Chinese director to win the prize and only the second Asian filmmaker so honored, following Korean director Kim Ki-duk, who won for 3-Iron in 2005.
It is somewhat unusual for a North American to take the international critics’ top honor, which pick their favorites from titles that screen at the top arthouse festivals worldwide. Only three American directors have ever won: Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life in 2011, Richard Linklater for Boyhood in 2014, and Paul Thomas Anderson, who is FIPRESCI’s most celebrated director, with three Grand Prix wins, for Magnolia (2000), There Will Be Blood (2008) and Phantom Thread (2018).
The 2021 FIPRESCI Grand Prix will be handed out on Sept. 17 during the opening gala of the 69th San Sebastian Festival. The international critics association did not award a Grand Prix last year, citing the cancellation of film festivals and releases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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