Chloé Zhao, Best Director, Oscars 2021

Oscars 2021: Chloé Zhao makes history as first woman of color to win Best Director

Chloé Zhao wins Best Director for Nomadland at the 2021 Oscars and makes history as the first woman of color to win in the category.

Chloé Zhao, Best Director, Oscars 2021

Chloé Zhao accepts award for Best Director at the 2021 Oscars. (Image Source)

The Oscars in 2021 looked a bit different 

Last night at the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony the best films of the past year were honored. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was held at various locations with Union Station being used as the show’s main location. At each location, attendees rotated in and out of the ceremony to adhere to pandemic social distancing guidelines and were only permitted to be maskless while on camera. 

The 2021 Oscars ceremony was notably different from years past with little-to-no skits and banter between presenters and all live performances pre-recorded. But perhaps a more subdued year is fitting to reflect the past year. 

Another big, and positive change to this year’s awards ceremony was the increase in diversity and representation among award nominees. For years the Academy has been criticized for their lack of diversity and inclusion, but this year we finally saw some historic firsts. 

Chloé Zhao’s historic win

Chinese filmmaker, Chloé Zhao became the first ever woman of color to win Best Director, and only the second woman to win in the category in nearly 100 years of the award’s history. Zhao won with her third feature film, Nomadland. The film stars Frances McDormand as a woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Nomadland premiered on September 11, 2020 at the Venice Film Festival where it won the festival’s highest award, the Golden Lion. Since its release, the film has collected numerous awards and high praises. It was the third highest-rated film of 2020 by Metacritic and was named one of the top 10 films of 2020 by both the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute.

In her acceptance speech, Zhao spoke on what inspires her to keep going daily. She recounted how, “When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorize classic poems and texts and try to finish each other’s sentences.” 

Zhao then recited a line of poetry in Chinese. “People at birth are inherently good,” she translated. “Those six letters had such a huge impact on me when I was a kid. I still truly believe them today. Even though it seems like that the opposite is true, I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere in the world.”

She went on to dedicate her award to “anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold on in the goodness in each other no matter how difficult it is to do that. You inspire me to keep going.”