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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 5 No. 2 (2024): Narrative, Environment, Social Justice

Genre, Space, and Social Critique in Chloé Zhao's Nomadland (2020)

May 17, 2023


This article examines the extent to which Nomadland is a convincing representation of poverty in the United States and to assess the film's political stance concerning race, gender, and age. By analyzing Nomadland's narrative and filmic techniques, this article points out three major characteristics of the film that are relevant for its portrayal of characters defined chiefly by their poverty and age. Firstly, Nomadland employs genres subtly to undercut their inherent ideological effects. Secondly, in its portrayal of space, it represents the characters as placemakers, showcasing their agency in the face of structural problems. Thirdly, it adopts a particular neorealist production style that lays a powerful claim to authenticity.

While the film falls short of addressing the root causes of poverty and bypasses the question of race altogether, Nomadland serves as an exemplary model of socially conscious filmmaking in other regards. It transcends mere entertainment and counters a more mainstream strategy of personalizing structural problems through a nuanced portrayal of elderly working nomads while also displaying attention to gender and age.


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