Chloe Zhao, who won best director at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, is favourite to become the second-ever female directing winner at the Oscars. AFP/Rich Fury
LOS ANGELES - Chloe Zhao voiced her excitement about the looming Oscars as her road movie "Nomadland" topped the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Thursday, winning best feature and showing no signs of slowing down its relentless award season charge.
The US feature film -- which has accrued dozens of Hollywood prizes and is tipped to win big at Sunday's Academy Awards -- also won best director, editing and cinematography honors at the ceremony dedicated to films with smaller budgets.
The Spirit Awards, taking place online this year due to Covid-19, are the penultimate stop on Hollywood's award circuit before the grand finale of the Oscars, which will be held in-person in Los Angeles in three days' time.
"We have a lot of friends nominated this year, and we're really excited to see them... and we have some surprise guests!" said Zhao, who is favorite to become the second-ever female directing winner at the Oscars.
When a moderator suggested those mystery guests might be the real-life nomads who play versions of themselves in Zhao's film, she added: "I can't wait to just hug them. I need to hug somebody!"
The film follow a community of older Americans who roam the West in vans after losing everything in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Collecting her director prize Zhao -- who made her name with tiny indie films set in the US heartland -- thanked the "independent film community," adding: "We wouldn't be here without you."
Zhao's next film is "Eternals," part of the mega-grossing Marvel superhero blockbuster series.
Asked by AFP in a virtual Q&A if she would like to return to indie filmmaking later, she replied: "Definitely -- I would love to be able to do both if possible."
"The difference? There's a lot more visual effects shots," she added, referring to the Marvel films' lavish, computer-enhanced action sequences.