Director Chloé Zhao’s critically acclaimed film Nomadland has received a short documentary special about the making of the film entitled See You Down the Road. Available on YouTube, the story of how the film was made is itself engaging and moving, especially for those who were looking to learn more about how it was all put together. Nomadland is a powerful film about community, loss, and recovering from the rough hand life has dealt you by taking to the road. Beautifully shot and constructed from the stunning vistas of various American landscapes, it is as stunning as it is painful.
The cinematic mastery on display in this short documentary shows why Zhao was recently nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, becoming the long-overdue first woman of Asian descent and the first non-white woman to receive a nomination. Her film is largely considered to be the frontrunner for Best Picture, and is nominated in multiple other categories at the Academy Awards, with nominations for Best Actress for Frances McDormand, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Editing.Already a two-time Oscar winner, McDormand observes in the documentary that the film exists as a “great document of a very specific time in our world” of people left in limbo who carve out a life for themselves wherever they can find it on the road. The documentary discusses how the camera itself is a witness to the lives of its subjects, almost becoming a near documentary itself. One of the most notable aspects is how the documentary offers a closer look at some of the non-professional actors and how they came to be featured in the film. Zhao is no stranger to highlighting real people living real lives. Her previous work – 2017’s The Rider and 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me– tapped into the authentic truths that come with living a life that is as hard as it can be liberating.
Zhao also discussed her process of creating the film so that it feels “like a year has passed with those little short montages.” Zhao has certainly succeeded, as the entire journey feels genuine and lived in from its painful start to cathartic conclusion. There also is a breakdown of a standout long tracking shot that sees Fern walking through the desert. Director of photography Joshua James Richards explains how he drew from Hal Ashby’s 1976 film Bound for Glory, which was the first-ever Steadicam shot in film history.
Perhaps the most positive endorsement comes from author and journalist Jessica Bruder. Bruder wrote “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” which served as source material for Zhao’s film. “A film is a different creature than a book. They’re different art forms, but the way they dovetail, I love how Chloé and then Frances were able together to cut a path through all these worlds that have meant so much to me,” Bruder said. “To see them link them like beads on a string in this really beautiful way has been incredible to watch.”
You can watch the Nomadland documentary below.