“Nomadland” has succeeded where all Hollywood has always failed

CINEMA – Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, Mostra … Since the start of the season, no ceremony has resisted “Nomadland”. Not even the Oscars. This Monday April 26, Chloé Zhao’s feature film received the title of “best film” during this 93rd ceremony, which was held in flesh and blood in Los Angeles.

Her story, adapted from Jessica Bruder’s book, is that of a woman named Fern. Played by Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards”), the sixty-year-old decides, after the economic collapse of the working-class town in which she lived, to hit the road in her van to embark on a nomadic life through the United States. From odd jobs to odd jobs, she integrates a community of people of a certain age who, like her, have made the choice to break with society.

This story of emancipation is overwhelming. He speaks of an unknown reality, to us French, but is no less universal. In question, the treatment of the basic problematic: ageism, that is to say all the stigmatizations and forms of contempt of which the elderly are victims today.

Check out the trailer for “Nomadland” below:

A theme dear to the director’s heart. “In many civilizations and traditional cultures, the elders are considered very important elements from which one can learn, said Chloé Zhao, interviewed by The HuffPost. Conversely, in capitalist societies, if you do not contribute to the economy of the country, you are considered to be thrown away after use. ”

The pandemic, a revealing crisis

She continues: “Obviously, the elderly fall into this category. This is what we have seen in the worst of situations, right now, during a pandemic. I think this is an issue we all need to pay attention to. ”

These words do not fall out of nowhere. According to a column published in the Financial Times in March, the unemployment rate of American workers over 55 exceeded that of mid-career workers, the first in fifty years. Three million seniors in the United States lost their jobs in January due to the health crisis-related recession, according to a report. The phenomenon spares no sector. Cinema, including.

In “Nomadland”, the main actress, who will turn 64 next June, shares the poster with David Strathairn, 72 years old. They are accompanied by a cast of amateurs, most of them real nomads, all of whom are between 60 and 80 years old. For a Hollywood movie, that’s rare.

8% of roles

For several years, voices have been raised to denounce the lack of representation of the elderly, and in particular women, on the big screen. In February, the choice to let Carey Mulligan, 35, play a 56-year-old heroine in “The Dig” was not unanimous. More recently, Carrie-Anne Moss (“Matrix”) confided, in the columns of the Hollywood Reporter, that she was offered the role of a grandmother at the dawn of her 40th birthday. In “Alexander” by Oliver Stone, released in 2005, Angelina Jolie plays the role of the hero’s mother. At the time, she was only a year apart from Colin Farrell, interpreter of the protagonist.

According to a study by Journal of Management Inquiry, in 2014, the absence of contracts is also accompanied by a drop in wages. From the age of 34, actresses would be less called and less well paid. In men, the tablets increase up to age 51, then stabilize.

France is not exempt from this discriminating phenomenon. Last January, the collective “Tunnel de la comédienne de 50 ans”, which includes in its ranks Blandine Metayer and Souad Amidou, pointed out the collective imagination according to which the public only wants to see young women at the screen, reminding us that only 8% of the roles were attributed to women over 50 in 2019.

Celebrate old age

Catherine Deneuve, with us. Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Sharon Stone, USA. Actresses over 55, there are, but can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They are “the tree which hides the forest”, comments to AFP Catherine Piffaretti, another figure of the French collective.

When we talk about diversity, says Chloé Zhao, “we sometimes forget to introduce the elderly”. “Ageism is an important and relevant problem. Our society is changing so quickly in the way it celebrates youth, but it does not pay homage at all to what aging can bring, continues the Chinese filmmaker. In fact, we see the fact of aging and dying as a negative thing, whereas it is a magnificent experience that we all go through. ”

She concludes: “I believe that constructing narratives that feature older people in front of the camera and magnify them can only make us a healthier society. This part of life is also incredibly interesting. ” His film opens a breach in Hollywood. It is possible to live an authentic and meaningful life after the age of 55.

See also on The HuffPost: Joaquin Phoenix’s vibrant speech at the 2020 Oscars about nature

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“Nomadland” has succeeded where all Hollywood has always failed