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‘Nomadland’ DP Calls Out Quentin Tarantino for Slamming Digital Cinematography

Joshua James Richards argues that digital enables lower-budget filmmakers like Chloé Zhao to get movies made.

Nomadland Chloé Zhao Joshua James Richards Podcast

Chloé Zhao, Joshua James Richards and Frances McDormand on the set of “Nomadland”

Searchlight Pictures

Quentin Tarantino’s preference for shooting on celluloid and aversion to digital cinematography have been well-documented over the years. At a press conference at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where “Pulp Fiction” was the only film to be screened in 35mm, he went so far to say, “As far as I’m concerned, digital projection is the death of cinema. The fact that most films aren’t presented in 35mm means that the world is lost. Digital projection is just television in cinema.”

Well, “Nomadland” cinematographer Joshua James Richards has an answer for that. He helped his partner and collaborator, director Chloé Zhao, shoot that once-secret road movie (now a major Academy Awards contender) on a low budget and primarily with a cast of nonprofessional actors. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, he called out Tarantino for slamming digital cinema, and argued that it actually enables low-budget filmmakers like Zhao to get their movies made.

“Tarantino says digital is the death of cinema. Fuck you, man. Chloé could get no backing, because she’s a Chinese woman. With digital, we could make our own movies for a hundred thousand dollars at the level they could be shown as cinema,” he said. Richards began collaborating with Zhao on her debut feature “Songs My Brother Taught Me,” also with a nonprofessional cast, which he submitted as his thesis at NYU.

To his credit, the next movie coming up from Zhao (though shot by Ben Davis) is “Eternals,” a $200-million Marvel Cinematic Universe epic with Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, and Gemma Chan. Richards previously shot her 2018 film “The Rider,” which caught the attention of Frances McDormand, star of “Nomadland.”

Read the full interview with Joshua James Richards over at The New Yorker. IndieWire also recently spoke to Zhao and Richards for a podcast interview about their collaboration and the making of “Nomadland.” “On set, I’m the guy just watching the light change and you’re observing that all day long, and it’s been over three movies, and you look at it on the day and pacing around anxiously,” said Richards of Zhao. You can listen to that here.

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