The Chinese-born director on reinventing the western, the power of limitation and why America feels like home
Born in Beijing in 1982, educated in England and New York, and now living in California, Chloé Zhao is the director of two striking films set in the American midwest. Her 2015 debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, was shot among the Lakota Sioux tribe in a remote reservation in South Dakota. Zhao’s second film, The Rider, returns there to tell the story of a real-life young cowboy called Brady Jandreau, who is getting back on his feet after a serious rodeo accident. The film won the top prize at the directors’ fortnight at Cannes.
How did The Rider come about?
After my first film, I went back to visit the Pine Ridge reservation a few times. When I saw Brady, who was working there, I just thought, wow he has a presence, I think the camera is really going to love his face. And then I saw him training horses and I knew I had to make a film with him.