Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao becomes 1st woman of color to win best director for 'Nomadland'

Zhao is also just the second woman to win in the category.

Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao becomes 1st woman of color to win best director for 'Nomadland'
April 25, 2021, 9:20 PM

Chloé Zhao won the Academy Award for best director for her film "Nomadland" at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday.

The 39-year-old became only the second woman ever to win best director. She is also the first Asian woman -- and woman of color -- to win the award.

"What a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime journey we went on," Zhao said, thanking everyone who worked on "Nomadland" while accepting the Oscar. "I'm so grateful to you."

"I have been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard, and I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid. When I was growing up in China, my dad and I used to play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts, and we would recite it together and try to finish each other's sentences. And there's one I remember so dearly, it's called 'The Three Character Classics,'" Zhao recalled.

Zhao then recited the phrase in her native Chinese before translating it as, "People at birth are inherently good."

"And those six letters had such a great impact on me when I was a kid, and I still truly believe them today even though sometimes it may seem like the opposite is true," she continued. "But I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere I went in the world."

"So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold on to the goodness in each other no matter how difficult it is to do that," she concluded. "And this is for you, you inspire me to keep going."

Zhao beat out fellow nominees Lee Isaac Chung for "Minari," Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman," David Fincher for "Mank" and Thomas Vinterberg for "Another Round."

"Nomadland" tells the story of Fern (Frances McDormand), who leaves her Nevada home to live out of her van, which she has nicknamed Vanguard. She then travels around the U.S., taking on odd jobs. Based on Jessica Bruder's 2017 book of the same name, one aspect that makes this film so special is that it features numerous real-life nomads in the supporting cast.

Only seven women have been nominated for best director in Academy Awards history. Others include: Lina Wertmüller for "Seven Beauties" in 1977, Jane Campion for "The Piano" in 1994, Sofia Coppola for "Lost in Translation" in 2004, Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker" in 2010, Greta Gerwig for "Lady Bird'' in 2018 and Fennell for "Promising Young Woman." Bigelow was the first woman to win.

Zhao is also the first woman to score four nominations in the same year, garnering nods for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay and best film editing.

‘Nomadland’ wins Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars.
‘Nomadland’ wins Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars.

Zhao's next directorial effort is Marvel's "Eternals," which is slated to hit theaters on Nov. 5, 2021.

For all things Oscars 2021, visit Oscar.com.

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