The only other woman to win the prize is Kathryn Bigelow, who picked up the statuette for The Hurt Locker in 2010.
“When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorise classic poems and text and try to finish each other’s sentences,” Zhao recalled during her acceptance speech.
She then recited a line of poetry in Chinese before translating it into English, “People at birth are inherently good.”
It was a line that certainly struck a chord with everyone watching, especially after the tumultuous 12 months we’ve all experienced – and particularly in light of a recent rise in violence against Asian Americans.
“I still truly believe that today. Even though sometimes they might seem like the opposite is true, but I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere I went in the world,” the director continued emotionally.
“This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves.”
Watch her speech in full for yourself below:
Naturally, Zhao’s triumph (she also picked up the much-coveted gong for Best Picture) was instantly celebrated by other creatives in Hollywood.
“Congratulations Chloé Zhao for Best Director @nomadland,” tweeted Sandra Oh. “Yes may we have faith in the goodness in ourselves and others.”
And Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, added: “She nailed it. The whole thing. Like I said, a class act. Congratulations Chloe Zhao, a most deserving winner. Let’s go!”
While Zhao is primarily known for her work in independent films, she is set to become something of a household name very soon – and not just because of her Oscars success.
That’s right; she’s also at the helm of upcoming Marvel movie Eternals, which is scheduled for release in November 2021.
All hail, then, the eternally brilliant Chloé Zhao!