Chloé Zhao made history at the 93rd Academy Awards, becoming the first woman of colour to win the best director prize.
Additionally, Zhao is only the second woman ever to receive the award with Kathryn Bigelow having previously won for her 2009 film The Hurt Locker. The 2021 Best Director category was already historic as it featured two women — with Emerald Fennel (who won best original screenplay) also nominated for Promising Young Woman. Their nominations brought the total of women nominated in the category to only seven.
Zhao’s stunning adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, had already racked up a slew of award nominations and wins, taking home both the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for Best Film.
The beautifully crafted film stars 2021 Oscar Winner Frances McDormand as Fern — a woman who has lost everything in the global financial crisis and now spends her days traversing America in her van, acquiring work where and whenever she can.
McDormand stars opposite real-life nomads in this ode to simplicity and anti-capitalism with impeccable performances across the board.
In her acceptance speech, Zhao told the audience, “When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorize classic poems and text and try to finish each other’s sentences.”
The director then recited one of her favourites which translates into: “People at birth are inherently good.”
“I have always found goodness in the people I met,” she said. “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves.”