Story at a glance
- Before the 2021 Golden Globes, only one woman had ever taken home the award for best director in the show’s 78-year history.
- Chloe Zhao made history by becoming the second female, and first Asian female, director to receive the coveted award.
- For years the Hollywood Foreign Press Association faced criticism for shunning female directors from the category. This year marks an important shift.
- Zhao’s next release will be the Marvel film “Eternals,” coming to theaters in November.
Director Chloe Zhao has won the Golden Globe for Best Director for her film “Nomadland,” making her just the second woman to win the category in the award show’s 78-year history. In taking home the award, Zhao’s superlatives didn’t stop there, as she is now the first Asian woman to take home the award as well.
Zhao’s win is representative of a shift within the industry, following years of backlash against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for what many considered to be a purposeful shutting out of female filmmakers from its Best Director category.
During the 2018 Golden Globes, actress Natalie Portman famously called the HFPA out while presenting the award, saying “And here are the all-male nominees.”
Sunday’s award show revealed the first time in Golden Globes history that three women were named in the Best Director category, including Zhao for “Nomadland, Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman” and Regina King for “One Night in Miami.” Prior to 2021, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay was the last woman to compete in the category at the 2015 Golden Globes.
"I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their stories with us," Zhao said while accepting her award, also sharing a quote from Bob Wells, a nomad who portrays a fictionalized version of himself in the film: "’Compassion is a breakdown of all barriers between us, a heart-to-heart bonding. Your pain is my pain. It's mingled and shared between us.' This is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories, because it gives us a chance to laugh and cry together, and a chance to learn from each other and have more compassion for each other."
The 2021 Golden Globes brought the total number of women nominated for the award in 78 years up to eight, with Zhao and Barbra Streisand being the only two wins. Streisand won the award in 1984.
Zhao’s award-winning film “Nomadland” is a drama about an itinerant woman played by Frances McDormand, who travels around rural America in her van following the economic demise of her small town. Her travels bring her occasional jobs such as in an Amazon warehouse, and lead her to make connections with other wanderers.
The director has stated in interviews that she wanted to make a point that people living in a country as wealthy as America shouldn’t have to see a nomadic life as their only option, saying “obviously, politically, I think [the nomad life] should be a choice for people of that age in one of the richest countries in the world,” Zhao said during a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You shouldn’t be forced into that life.”
“I feel like I'm in the business of recording time,” she added. “And I'm always curious about how people would like to be remembered. It's not about what I think. It's not about my own point of view.”
Many around the world have praised Zhao for her Golden Globes win, calling her a "huge inspiration for young Asian girls," and adding that it was a "win for women everywhere."
"I cannot stress this enough, as an Asian woman in the arts, it is so inspiring to see Chloe Zhao make history tonight as the first woman of colour to win for best director," said one Twitter user.
Zhao even received a shoutout from Barbara Streisand, the first female director to win the Golden Globe award.
It’s about time! Congratulations Chloé! Well deserved!— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) March 1, 2021
Social media users have also pointed out that Zhao’s win comes at a pivotal time when racist and xenophobic aggressions toward Asians Americans have risen in the United States. Luckily, Zhao wasn’t the only Asian to take home an award on Sunday, either. Director Lee Isaac Chung won Best-Foreign Language Film for the semi-autobiographical “Minari.”
"In a time where Asian-Americans are being attacked because we're still seen as foreign and a disease, Chloe Zhao and Minari winning Golden Globes means so much," tweeted journalist Diep Tran. "We exist, we are Americans."
READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA