Oscars 2021: Chloé Zhao wins Best Director for Nomadland, becoming the first woman of colour to receive the award

chloe zhao oscars

Meet the woman making the headlines

Beijing-born Chloé Zhao graced the Oscars in her signature style. In her muted Hermès dress, classic white trainers and signature plaits, Zhao took to the Oscars stage for nominations for her film, Nomadland.

The film follows a woman in her sixties, Fern (Frances McDormand), who lives as a modern nomad and travels through the American West. With its intimacy and slow pace, Nomadland studies the restlessness after the Great Recession and more poignantly, the lives of those forgotten.

One of the praises the movie received most is the delicacy in the treatment of the subject. Poverty, restlessness, the recession – all of which are issues sometimes glorified, sometimes objectified, sometimes shunned. But Zhao treats it with respect, a polite curiosity and intense sense of genuineness that comes through on the big screen.

chloe zhao oscars nomadland
Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand at the set of Nomadland

Nomadland was the front-runner at Oscars for this reason. And it was also the reason the film won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Best Director.

Zhao clinched the Oscar for Best Director, becoming the first woman of colour and the second woman to win best director at the Academy Awards. In her acceptance speech, Zhao nods to her Chinese heritage and growing up in China by citing a line of a mandarin poem. It’s one phrase that ultimately drives her – “People at birth are inherently good.”

Perhaps it is this earnest outlook that is exemplified in Nomadland and that resulted in the film’s big wins at the Academy Awards. At the press interview, Zhao said, “I’m lucky to have parents who have always told me [that] who you are is enough […] who you are is your art.”

And if Zhao is her art, then we can’t wait to see what more is in store for this director.