Chloé Zhao, winner of Best Director – Motion Picture for “Nomadland”, speaks during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards broadcast on February 28, 2021. -- (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Golden Globes 2021: how Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao made history at this year’s awards

Posted by for Film

Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao has taken home the Golden Globe for best director – and she’s the first Asian woman to ever do so. 

While the 2021 Golden Globes was steeped in controversy from the get go, this writer – like so many others – was overjoyed when Chloé Zhao was awarded the gong for best director.

In that moment, the Nomadland director made Golden Globes history, as she’s not just the second woman to ever take home the prize, but she’s the first Asian woman to do so, too.

“I cannot stress this enough, as an Asian woman in the arts, it is so inspiring to see Chloé Zhao make history tonight as the first woman of colour to win for best director,” said one Twitter user. 

Emotionally delivering her acceptance speech via video link, Zhao said: “This award belongs to the whole Nomadland team, the entire cast and crew. You all know who you are.”

The director continued: “”I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their stories with us,” she continued, going on to share a quote from one about compassion: “compassion is the breakdown of all barriers between us. A heart-to-heart bonding. Your pain is my pain. It’s mingled and shared between us.”

And, explaining why the film represents what her role as a director and storyteller means to her, Zhao added: “Now 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 it gives us to learn from each other and have more compassion for each other.” 

Watch the trailer for Nomadland below:

Starring Frances McDormand, and based on a nonfiction book by journalist Jessica Bruder, Nomadland tells the story of newly-widowed Fern, who is forced to leave her longtime home in rural Nevada during the recession.

Over time, the resilient woman becomes a nomad, living in her van and finding seasonal work when and where she can. She washes her clothes in laundromats, bathes in lakes, and forges fleeting friendships.

And, while her country may have forgotten her and all those who are forced into a life they didn’t choose, she rediscovers the American West along the way.

Of course, writer and director Lee Isaac Chung also won at the 2021 Golden Globes when his film Minari was (controversially) awarded Best Foreign Film, despite having been filmed in America, and despite telling a story about a Korean family living in Arkansas.

“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,” said journalist Diep Tran in a tweet.

“We exist, we are Americans.”

It’s worth noting that Zhao was up against fellow nominees Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, Regina King for One Night In Miami, David Fincher for Mank, and Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7.

As a result, the Golden Globes has – despite being heavily criticised for its lack of diversity – made history by recognising more than one woman in the directing category.

We can only hope that this small step in the right direction will be followed by several bounding leaps towards a fairer and more representative Hollywood

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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