Oscars 2021: Chloé Zhao Becomes First Woman of Color to Win Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow won for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010

Chloe Zhao 2021 Oscars Nomadland

On Sunday, Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color in history to win Best Director at the Academy Awards for “Nomadland,” a victory that came more than a decade after Kathryn Bigelow broke the gender barrier with “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.

David Fincher (“Mank”), Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) were nominated in the category this year.

Zhao is only the second woman ever to win the award. Her win also means that Asian directors have won the Oscar the last four times they’ve been nominated (Ang Lee won in 2006 and 2013, while Bong Joon-ho won in 2020).

Zhao’s film “Nomadland” follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman in her 60s who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. As is common in much of Zhao’s work, the film includes real people-turned-actors including Linda May and Charlene Swankie.

The movie is based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” which McDormand and Peter Spears (“Call Me By Your Name”) optioned soon after it was published in 2017.

“Nomadland” was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing categories.

See the full list of this year’s Oscar winners right here.


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