Just as Gold Derby predicted, Chloe Zhao won the DGA Award on Saturday night for directing Searchlight’s indie film “Nomadland.” She is now the second woman in the history of the Directors Guild of America to claim victory in the main feature film category, following Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) 11 years ago. Such a victory would often propel a contender forward at the Oscars, but Zhao is already the overwhelming front-runner there after prevailing at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
Zhao’s rival nominees at the 2021 DGA Awards were Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), David Fincher (“Mank”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). This line-up matches four-for-five at the Oscars, with Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”) replacing the snubbed Sorkin.
The DGA’s feature film category is one of the most telling bellwethers for the Best Director Oscar. The guild and the academy have only disagreed eight times over the past seven decades, including last year when Sam Mendes (“1917”) won the DGA but Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) claimed the Oscar.
“Nomadland” tells the story of a woman (Frances McDormand) who traverses the country in her van looking for work. The film received six total Oscar nominations, tying it for second place behind only “Mank.” It contends for Best Picture, Best Director (Zhao), Best Actress (McDormand), Best Adapted Screenplay (Zhao), Best Film Editing (Zhao) and Best Cinematography (Joshua James Richards).
Other winners at the 73rd Directors Guild of America Awards were Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”) for Best First-Time Film Director, Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”) for Best Drama Director and Susanna Fogel (“The Flight Attendant”) for Best Comedy Director. (See the complete list of winners.) These kudos honored the best helmers of the year in film and television, as voted on by more than 18,000 members of the directing guild.