Tisch alumni recognized at Golden Globes and Oscars

Chloé Zhao made history at the 2021 Golden Globes, and her film “Nomadland” was nominated for numerous Oscars. Meanwhile, Karishma Dev Dube’s movie “Bittu” made the shortlist for the best live-action short film category at the 2021 Academy Awards.

The+Oscars+were+one+of+many+award+shows+that+have+looked+different+since+the+COVID-19+pandemic.+Two+NYU+Tisch+alumni+are+recognized+as+nominees+at+the+Oscars+and+Golden+Globes+this+year.+%28Illustration+by+Jules+Talbot%29

Jules Talbot

The Oscars were one of many award shows that have looked different since the COVID-19 pandemic. Two NYU Tisch alumni are recognized as nominees at the Oscars and Golden Globes this year. (Illustration by Jules Talbot)

By Rachel Cohen, Staff Writer

Tisch alumnae Chloé Zhao and Karishma Dev Dube made headlines in recent weeks for their groundbreaking awards show recognitions. Dube’s short film “Bittu” was one of 10 finalists on the shortlist for best live-action short film at the 93rd Oscars. Zhao won best director at the 78th Golden Globes and her film “Nomadland” won best motion picture, drama. 

Zhao was nominated for the directing award at the Oscars. “Nomadland” was nominated for the best picture, film editing and adapted screenplay awards. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” directed by Tisch alumnus Shaka King, was nominated for best picture as well. It is the first best picture nominee with an all-Black production team.

Filmmakers like Chloé [Zhao] and  Karishma [Dube] exemplify the importance of championing diverse voices — both in front of and behind the camera — in advancing much-needed change in the industry,” Tisch Dean Allyson Green wrote in a statement to WSN. “We hope all students will draw inspiration from our graduates’ recent successes and feel empowered to tell the unique stories that draw and compel them.”

Dube came to the Tisch Graduate Film program in 2014 and wrote “Bittu” as her thesis screenplay. The 17-minute feature was directed and filmed in six days in February 2019. After winning the silver medal for narrative at the Student Academy Award last October, “Bittu” was eligible for submission to the 93rd Oscars this year. It was recognized as one of 10 top short films among 170. The shortlist was narrowed down to five nominations on March 15.

“I was shocked and stunned, but also really grateful and a little anxious,” Dube told WSN regarding her film making the shortlist. “The machinery around the awards campaign was educational, but it was not about filmmaking, so a small part of me is relieved to get back to work.”

“Bittu” is based on true events (that took place) in 2013, when at least 23 students in the Indian state of Bihar died after their lunch was unintentionally contaminated. Dube said the film was also inspired by her experiences attending boarding school, and serves as a tribute to her friendships at home.

“The heart of the film is about individuality and the cost that comes with it in typically conservative spaces,” Dube said. “Ultimately, a lot of it is about my sister and I growing up as kids in a very uniform society and how we were treated differently.”

Zhao became the first woman of Asian descent and the first woman of color to win the Golden Globe for best director on Feb. 28. She is the first woman to win Best Director in almost 40 years since Barbra Streisand won with “Yentl.” It was the first time in history that three women were nominated for the award in a single year. 

“I fell in love with making movies and telling stories because it gives us a chance to laugh and cry together,” Zhao said during her acceptance speech. “It gives us a chance to learn from each other and to have more compassion for each other.”

Zhao has “reinvented the Western,” as Vogue put it, with her films “Daughters,” “Songs My Brother Taught Me” and “The Rider.” Her next movie, “Eternals,” which is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is scheduled to be released in November.

Zhao enrolled in the Tisch Graduate Film program in 2010 and took a class with professor Gail Segal. Segal described Zhao and her classmates as “remarkable.”

“It’s meaningful that young directors have Chloé as an example, because she’s very intelligent, big-hearted and has a committed work ethic,” Segal told WSN. “The combination of those qualities makes a good example for anybody coming along.”

Having taught at the graduate program for 20 years, Segal said she has seen “again and again” how long it takes for a female director to have a second feature film released. However, she has noticed that women are starting to receive more recognition in the film industry.

“If you hear Chloé talk about what she went through to get her first movie made, and then her second — it’s daunting,” Segal said. “It required an extraordinary sense of perseverance and doggedness to accomplish those initial films. It is important that women are getting recognized — but, from my perspective, perhaps more important is creating opportunities for women.”

Tisch first-year Karen Chan, a film student from Hong Kong, said that watching Zhao win best director encouraged her to keep pursuing her major. 

“Female voices are finally being heard and respected in the film industry,” Chan said. “It’s important to give people of color that platform and let them tell stories that only they can tell.”

Email Rachel Cohen at [email protected]