Chloé Zhao Makes History With Best Director Win at 2021 Oscars

The Nomadland filmmaker shared a message of kindness and hope while accepting the award, a groundbreaking moment in Oscars history.

By Brett Malec Apr 26, 2021 1:10 AMTags
Watch: "Nomadland" Director Chloe Zhao on Importance of Being Spontaneous

Chloé Zhao just made Academy Awards history.

The Nomadland filmmaker just won the award for Best Directing at the 2021 Oscars, making her only the second female director ever to take home the trophy in this category. Kathryn Bigelow was previously the only female to win Best Director for 2008's The Hurt Locker.

Zhao was nominated against Another Round's Thomas Vinterberg, Mank's David Fincher, Minari's Lee Isaac Chung, and Promising Young Woman's Emerald Fennell. 2021 marks the first year in Oscars history that more than one female filmmaker was nominated in the Best Director category.

During her speech, Zhao shared a message of kindness that is sure to warm your heart.

"Thank you to the academy. Thank you to my brilliant, brilliant nominees, fellow nominees," Zhao said from the stage. "My entire Nomadland company. What a crazy once-in-a-lifetime journey we went on. Thank you so much. I'm so grateful to you."

Oscars 2021 Red Carpet Fashion

Zhao continued, "I have been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard, and I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid. When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts, and we would recite them together. And there was one I remember, it's called The Three Character Classics. And the first phrase goes...'People at birth are inherently good.' And those six letters had such a great impact on me when I was a kid. And I still truly believe them today."


Zhao concluded, "Even though sometimes it may seem like the opposite is true. But I have always found goodness in the people I met. Everywhere I went in the world. So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves. And to hold on to the goodness in each other. No matter how difficult it is to do that. And this is for you, you inspire me to keep going. Thank you."

Zhao is the first Asian woman and woman of color to win Best Director in Oscars history and the first woman to receive four nominations in one year—she's also up for Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Only five women had been nominated in the best director category before the 2021 Oscars ceremony: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker and Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird