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.”

How Arylin Martínez Cora is empowering fellow Latinx Filmmakers through nonprofit

Arilyn Martínez Cora is an entrepreneur, educator, and filmmaker from Puerto Rico. She is the Founder/Director of the Latino Film Market Inc. (LFM), a non-profit that provides information about film distribution to Latinx filmmakers since its start in 2017. She has also been producing and directing films in the U.S and her native country for almost a decade.   Her passion is promoting and informing the community about the Latinx entertainment world in film, television and online platforms. 

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Arilyn Martínez Cora with fellow Latino filmmakers (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

Lack of Latino representation in the film industry 

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Arilyn Martínez Cora, founder of Latino Film Market. (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

Arylin has always loved the world of film and theater. She holds two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Theatre Arts from the University of Puerto Rico, and the second one in Film Production from Brooklyn College, New York City. She also has a Masters degree in Marketing from the University of Phoenix. 

Through all her studies, she had the opportunity to attend many educational events about filmmaking and navigating the financial side of the film industry. However, Arylin soon noticed that she barely saw any Latinos at these events. 

“The ones that I saw, I could count with my hands and still have free fingers, ‘you can imagine,’” says Arylin. 

On top of this issue, Arylin also noticed that many filmmakers were struggling to get their films viewed and distributed, even after being accepted to film festivals. 

“I was going to Brooklyn College doing a second bachelors in filmmaking and I started to realize that many of the films after going to film festivals, if they were accepted, would end up on a hard drive or on a youtube channel that nobody would watch,” says Arylin. 

The lack of networking opportunities for these filmmakers and the lack of Latino representation and educational resources inspired Arylin to take action and do something about these issues. 

Launching the Latino Film Market 

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Arilyn Martínez Cora at an event with fellow Latino filmmakers (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

After graduating from Brooklyn College, Arylin worked in the film industry, gaining experience on many films, and decided to “go for it” and start the Latino Film Market. The LFM first began as an event along with Laura Rosado, Luz Ahmed, Bernardo Palombo from El Taller Latino Americano and many others.

The Latino Film Market event was a success. “So many people attended,” says Arylin. The positive response to the event pushed Arylin to expand the LFM. “I decided to move forward and build the nonprofit.” 

Now, the Latino Film Market is a woman-run 502c3 non-profit that provides information and resources to Latinx filmmakers. Through the LFM, Arylin has helped sell five short-films and one feature film: El Buen Vassallo, Azul, I Will Not Forget You, among others. 

One of the biggest struggles for Arylin early on in the process of building the nonprofit was finding funding. However, she says, “With time and planning I have been able to raise money with my team for the events. I have a great team member that was able to provide expertise and help us to grow, his name is George Luis Acevedo.”  

Throughout her journey as an entrepreneur, Arylin has surrounded herself with great mentors and experts. She says one of her biggest strengths has been to learn to listen and allow the experts to do their work. 

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Latino filmmakers on set working on a project. (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

“No micromanaging,” she says, “but let people work and be happy bringing what they know, allowing the process to develop very well.  For example we have an annual film festival called Latino Film Market and we have been working with Erika Sanchez for two years. She brings marketing ideas, we agree, then she works her magic.” 

Arylin has developed an understanding of what is important and what she should bring to the Latino community. Her goal is always to keep empowering and educating women and Latinx filmmakers. 

“For me succeeding is to be able to keep educating the community about film distribution and also to provide a platform for filmmakers and artists that don’t have the opportunity. That way they can learn how to develop a path and become financially sustainable with their talent,” Arylin says. 

Latino Film Market event. (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

From their film festival to networking events to film screenings and workshops, the Latino Film Market is providing resources to aid Latinx filmmakers and facilitate a space for filmmakers who are eager to network, and acquire the knowledge and tools necessary to promote and distribute their content. At LFM events, there are more Latinos than can be counted on just one hand. It’s a space where the Latino community is included as the main topic. 

You might be interested: Selina Ringel’s Film “39 Weeks” Captures the Reality of Pregnancy During Covid-19

Going for your dreams: “Develop a plan and make it happen” 

Arylin is dedicated to empowering women and Latinos through education and media. She saw a problem and did something to make a change. In addition to her work with the LFM, she has co-produced the TV show special Empowering Women In Media Panel—a collaboration with the company Girl Love Yourself Now and Manhattan Neighborhood Network and supports Latino film projects and storytelling from the women’s perspective. She also has worked as an artist teacher and a professor for Reel Works and Boricua College. 

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Arilyn Martínez Cora on set with filmmakers and crew. (Photo courtesy Arilyn Martínez Cora)

Another highlight of her career thus far was collaborating with Sundance. 

“Being able to do an event in collaboration with Sundance–one of the best film festivals of the world–was amazing. Teaching a class about film distribution to the Latinx community, that does not have the resources, was very inspiring and the community responded very well,” said Arylin. 

All of these dreams would not have been possible if Arylin had not acted on her dreams. To other aspiring women looking to start a business or make career change, Arylin says, “Just do it. Develop a plan and make it happen. Try to find a way to stay motivated throughout the days that are less productive. Write a to do list and at least to accomplish one task a day. Allow yourself to fail and find members that would help you to build your business.  Find mentors that are able to educate you. Take classes and put in practice everything that you learn.” 

Currently, Arylin is working on her next dream: developing a web series and a documentary. 

For more information on the Latino Film Market, how to submit your work, or volunteer visit: