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Chloé Zhao: First Woman of Color to Win Best Director Oscar

Before this Oscars season you may never have heard of incredible filmmaker Chloé Zhao, but after the recent ceremony, her name made history. Two weeks ago, Zhao took home the Oscar for best Director, becoming the first woman of color and second woman ever to win the award. Her film, Nomadland, also received the award for Best Picture. 

 

Zhao’s film journey began in college, where she earned a minor in Film Studies from Mount Holyoke College before entering a graduate film program at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her breakthrough came in 2015, where her debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me—which she wrote, directed, and produced—was streamed at the Sundance Film Festival. She then directed a western drama called The Rider with her father, earning nominations at independent film festivals. 

 

Then came Nomadland, which had already won a People’s Choice Award and a Golden Globe for Directing prior to the six Oscar nominations. The film details a 60-year-old woman’s journey through the West in her van, living nomadically in the modern day. It won three of its six nominations: Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture overall. 

 

Zhao’s win is historic, but censorship laws in China have made the film unavailable in the country thus far. However, this has not stopped some international fans from expressing their pride in her accomplishment

 

Although Zhao is the first woman of color to win an Oscar award for directing, she will certainly not be the last. She states that “this win means more people get to live their dreams. I’m extremely grateful.” Representation in media is so important, and seeing an Asian woman winning this Oscar can inspire the next generation of POC filmmakers. 

You can check out her Oscar acceptance speech here.

Emi Nishida

Cal Poly '24

Emi Nishida is a second year English major and Child Development minor from Irvine, California. She serves as an editor and editorial writer for Cal Poly’s chapter of Her Campus. Other than writing, her passions include concerts, romcoms, anything arts & crafts, and exploring the outdoors.
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