On Sunday, Chloé Zhao became the second woman 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 for “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 also became the first Asian woman and the first nonwhite woman to win the award. A win for Zhao also meant that Asian directors have won the Oscar the last four times that they’ve been nominated (Ang Lee in 2006 and 2013, Bong Joon-ho in 2020).
Zhao’s film “Nomadland” is a road movie following Fern (Frances McDormand), 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. A signature of Zhao’s, the film includes real people turned actors including Linda May and Charlene Swankie.
The movie is based on the non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, which McDormand and Peter Spears (“Call Me By Your Name”) optioned soon after it was published in 2017.
The film was also nominated in the categories Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.
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