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Settled Sky

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Yǒu kào zhī tiān | 有靠之天

Inversion of "Nomadland," the title of the Oscar-winning feature film directed by Beijing-born Chloé Zhao. [1] Zhao was initially showered with praise from Chinese state media when her film was nominated for the Oscar in March 2021, which was soon followed by a nationalist backlash after internet users dug up a comment by Zhao that was critical of China. The 2021 Oscar award ceremony was not broadcast in mainland China or in Hong Kong. "Settled Sky" is just one of many code words invented to offer praise to Zhao and her film.

In a 2013 interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Zhao described China as a place “where there are lies everywhere.” Chinese media and internet users openly celebrated when "Nomadland" won the Golden Globe for best dramatic film in February 2021, but the resurfacing of her 2013 comment was enough to see the hashtags #Nomadland and #NomadlandReleaseDate blocked on Weibo, and to make marketing materials for the film vanish. A transcription error by, misquoting Zhao as saying “the U.S. is now my country, ultimately,” further fanned the nationalist flames. (The site issued a correction, as Zhao actually said “the U.S. is not my country.”)

Zhao made history as the first woman of color to win an Oscar for best director, while “Nomadland” also took the top prize as the 2021 best picture. But in the country of Zhao’s birth, celebrations were muted by a state-coordinated blackout of coverage of the awards and censorship of Zhao's name and the title of her film on websites and social media.


  1. A more accurate translation would be "Reliable Sky," but loses the sense of opposition; the Chinese title of "Nomadland" is Wú yī zhī dì 无依之地, literally "Unreliable Land."

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