Update: Nomadland wins Oscar for Best Picture. The movie is about a woman who loses her job and her home and joins the growing number of Americans living out of vans as they search for work.
Chinese-born filmmaker Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman and second woman ever to win best director at the Academy Awards on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
It was the first Oscar for Zhao, 39, who told the story of real-life financially stretched van dwellers in U.S. recession-era tale Nomadland.
The lives of older Americans who travel from job to job to try and scrape together a living showed actual nomads alongside actress Frances McDormand.
Only one other woman has won it
Just two women have won best director in the 93-year history of the Academy Awards.
Kathryn Bigelow took the prize in 2010 for war thriller The Hurt Locker.
First time two women nominated in this category
Zhao competed this year against Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell.
It was the first time two women were nominated in the category at the same time.
Zhao went into the Oscars ceremony as the front-runner after picking up trophies from the Directors Guild of America, the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and multiple film critics groups.
Other contenders, in addition to Fennell, were David Fincher for Mank, Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, and Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round.
Asian directors making a name
This is the second year in a row that an Asian director has won the Oscars for Best Director.
Bong Joon-ho won in 2020 for his film, Parasite.
The Korean-language film also won for best original screenplay, best international feature film and best picture.
Zhao was born in China and lived in Beijing until age 14.
She then went to boarding school in London and later finished high school in Los Angeles.
After attending film school in New York, Zhao won acclaim for independent movies Songs My Brothers Taught Me, about the bond between a Native American brother and sister, and The Rider, the story of a young cowboy recovering from a serious head injury.
Zhao's upcoming films include Marvel Studios action flick Eternals, scheduled for a Novemebr release, and a sci-fi Western version of Dracula.
Top photo via CFP