Nomadland: When Mendocino County Meets Award Winning Films


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The film poster for Nomadland

Nomadland, is a film revolving around a woman in her sixties navigating life as a nomad, going wherever the road takes her. An interesting aspect of this film is that a short portion was filmed right here in Mendocino County, specifically on the Mendocino coast near Point Arena. 

Nomadland has been the recipient of a lofty amount of praise, from critics and film lovers alike, and it’s not difficult to see why. The film takes the viewer on a journey with a woman named Fern, filled with the complexities that life brings, as she has just lost her husband, as well as most of her possessions, moving from place to place in her van as a nomad. Director Chloe Zhao takes a simplistic approach to the entire film, and it complements the almost plotless story to put the viewer in the perspective of a person simply trying to live their life freely, not being tied down with the difficulties of modern living. Everything about this film is fairly straightforward, and that’s part of where it draws its appeal; the cinematography is simplistic and the many landscape shots featured along Fern’s journey looks simply beautiful, such as the shots featuring Mendocino County. The writing feels natural and human, the characters feel like real people, especially since a few of them are actual nomads, the soundtrack is melancholic and gorgeous, and the film just overall conveys an extremely human experience that sits with the viewer, whether they’re a nomad like Fern, or a “normal” home-dweller. 

As stated before, there’s a section of this film that features the Point Arena coast in Mendocino County, and although it’s brief, it provides a large contribution to the overall journey that Fern embarks on. The scene is quick, but it essentially consists of Fern walking along the cliffside of the Pacific coast, seeming to take comfort in the freedom she can experience. As a film featuring the American West, many other locations were used to detail the vastness of the region, and Mendocino County’s inclusion indicates the significance of our area, and its place as a natural staple of California. In a film that deals with finding community in unexpected places, Mendocino County seems like a perfect fit for one of the many settings featured (even if there are no character interactions), as Mendocino County doesn’t seem like it holds much, but in reality, our county can provide a lot, even if it’s just a simple feeling of joy and freedom. In the end, simplicity is part of what makes this film special, and it doesn’t need to feature anything huge within our county to represent the fulfillment it brings people.

The film industry has endured quite an interesting year during the COVID-19 pandemic, with theaters closing down and quarantine becoming a staple of the pandemic. With this unprecedented event, comes major changes in the film industry as they’re not able to produce and release as many films due to restrictions on social contact. Still, filmmakers have found ways to work around these regulations, bringing forth some of the best films to ever hit screens in recent years. 2020 saw the release of a wide range of films that received critical praise, and some even Oscar nominations, with prominent examples being Sound of Metal, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tenet, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Mank, Promising Young Woman, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Soul, Onward, and of course, Nomadland. So far, UHS News has only seen a handful of these films listed (among others), and while UHS News loved most of the films from the chaotic year, the one that stood out strongly was Nomadland. 

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