A long time coming indeed.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, Chloé Zhao won the Golden Globe for Best Director, making her the first Asian woman to win in the category and the second woman since Barbra Streisand in 1983. She ended the night with another big win when her film, Nomadland, was named Best Motion Picture—Drama, making her the first Asian female producer and first female director to win in that category. On the heels of an unforgettable night, the 38-year-old Chinese filmmaker was relishing her watershed achievements.
In the virtual press room, Zhao reacted to the list of firsts she had triumphantly crossed off. "I mean, sometimes a first feels like a long time coming, isn't it?" she said. "I feel like it's about time...I'm sure there's many others before me that deserve the same recognition. I just love what I do, you know, I just really love it, and if this means more people like me get to live their dreams and get to do what I do, I'm happy."
As her film—which centers on a woman who heads out onto the road in a van as a modern nomad—continues to gain award recognition, Zhao hopes to see one particular outcome from it all.
"The film is called Nomadland and there's a word called nomad in there," she told reporters. "I think if this means that more people when they walk down the road, where they look around their neighborhood and they see someone who is not living in a traditional home, who is living an alternative lifestyle and maybe, you know, wave and say hi, you will make their day...The recognition that we're getting, the awareness that I think is going to bring to the nomadic community, I think is a great thing.
After beating fellow directors David Fincher, Regina King, Emerald Fennell and Aaron Sorkin, Zhao reflected on her passion for filmmaking in her powerful acceptance speech.
"This award belongs to the whole Nomadland team, the entire cast and crew... you all know who you are," she said. "I want to thank my partner, Josh, and my family for keeping me sane all these years, and I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their story with us."
Quoting nomad Bob Wells, she continued, "'Compassion is the breakdown of all the barriers between us, a heart-to-heart bounding. Your pain is my pain. It's mingled and shared between us.' Now, this is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories 'cause it give us a chance to laugh and cry together and it gives us a chance to learn from each other and to have more compassion for each other, so thank you, everyone, who made it possible for me to do what I love."