Chloe Zhao’s Golden Globes Best Director win for ‘Nomadland’ is a historic milestone

Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao made history at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, becoming only the second woman to ever win the Golden Globes prize for Best Director and the first woman of Asian descent to earn the award as well.

Before Sunday night, Ang Lee was the last time a filmmaker of Asian descent to win Best Director at the Golden Globes, an award he won for “Brokeback Mountain” at the 2006 ceremony.

Zhao is the first woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes since Barbra Streisand took home the award for directing “Yentl” at the 1984 ceremony. In the 78-year history of the Golden Globes, only eight women have been nominated for Best Director: Streisand was nominated twice, for “Yentl” and “The Prince of Tides”; Kathryn Bigelow was also nominated twice, for “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”; Jane Campion for “The Piano,” Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation,” and Ava DuVernay for “Selma” all received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Director as well.

This year, Zhao was joined by two other women in the Best Director category, the first time three female filmmakers received nominations together in the same year: Emerald Fennell was nominated for “Promising Young Woman” and Regina King received a nomination for “One Night in Miami.”

The other nominees in the category were Aaron Sorkin for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and David Fincher for “Mank.”

Golden Globe Award voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have come under fire in recent years for their failure to recognize the work of female directors. In 2018, when the Best Director category omitted such contenders as Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird” and Dee Rees for “Mudbound,” Natalie Portman made international headlines while announcing the year’s “all-male nominees.” More recently, as in this month, the Globes were sharply criticized for a report published by the Los Angeles Times that showed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association contained no Black members. 

“We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them,” the HFPA said in a statement. “We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.”

Zhao’s victory on Sunday night should be the first of many for the “Nomadland” director throughout awards season. She’s the overwhelming favorite to win Best Director at the Oscars as well.

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