Chloé Zhao has made history at the 93rd Academy Awards, becoming the first woman of colour – and the second woman ever – to win the Oscar for Best Director.
Zhao’s film Nomadland also took home the Best Picture award and saw Frances McDormand (once again) win the Oscar for Best Actress – she previously won the accolade in 2018 for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
In her acceptance speech, Zhao dedicated her Oscar to “anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and the goodness in each other”. Zhao referenced a poem she used to recite with her father as she was growing up in China, which included the line: “People at birth are inherently good.” She added: “Those six letters had such a great impact on me when I was a kid, and I still truly believe them today, even though sometimes it might feel like the opposite is true. I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met everywhere I went in the world.”
Nomadland is Zhao’s third feature film, following 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017’s The Rider. Based on journalist Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film follows Fern (McDormand) as she travels around the US in her van following the death of her husband. The movie also stars real-life nomads as fictionalised versions of themselves.
Zhao’s win comes 11 years after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director for 2009’s The Hurt Locker. Addressing the historic moment in a press conference after her speech, Zhao said: “I’m extremely fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living. If this win helps more people like me get to live their dreams, I’m so grateful for this.”
Watch Zhao’s full acceptance speech below, and see Dazed’s round-up of the best looks at the Oscars here.