By Nick Romano
February 12, 2019 at 04:05 PM EST
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Joshua Richardson/Fox Searchlight

We now have a first look at Frances McDormand‘s follow-up to her Oscar-winning performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — and it’s a film that should get a lot of critics buzzing.

In acquiring the new title’s worldwide rights, Fox Searchlight dropped photos of the actress, 61, in Nomadland, the third feature film from director Chloé Zhao.

In accepting the Oscar for Best Actress in 2018, McDormand called on stars to demand “inclusion riders” in their contracts, meaning requirements for gender or racial diversity in the films on which they work. “We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said of the relatively few female nominees in the room at the time. She’s now setting the example.

Zhao previously received acclaim for her work on The Rider. That film, based on the real story of its star Brady Jandreau, was named the best movie of the year by the National Society of Film Critics but lost a lot of love from the Oscars and Golden Globes. In any case, the filmmaker already has a lot going for her heading into the next venture.

Nomadland stars McDormand as Fern, a woman in her 60s who lost everything in the Great Recession and now lives as a nomadic van-rider journeying across the American West. It’s based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, which McDormand and producer Peter Spears optioned for film shortly after its publishing in 2017.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

“As I fell in love with the American West, it was impossible not to become fascinated with the roads that lead to the many adventures beyond the horizon,” Zhao said in a statement. “I’m very fortunate to be able to hit the road with a talented team and collaborate with a cast of professional and non-professional actors who are deeply giving and inspiring. I can’t wait to share their stories and what we’ve discovered along the way.”

Accompanying McDormand on this journey are Lincoln‘s David Strathairn and “real people turned actors” (as the press release puts it) Linda May and Charlene Swankie, just as The Rider‘s Jandreau was a cowboy before starring in Zhao’s film.

McDormand also produces the film along with Zhao, Spears, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey.

“We are thrilled to work with visionary filmmaker Chloé Zhao on Nomadland,” said Fox Searchlight Chairmen Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula. “Her unique voice, combined with the extraordinary talent of Frances McDormand, makes it an important and compelling story.”

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