Chloé Zhao is the first woman of Asian descent to land a Golden Globe directing nod

Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao near a car
Frances McDormand and filmmaker Chloé Zhao on the set of “Nomadland.”
(Joshua Richards / Searchlight Pictures)

“Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao was nominated for a Golden Globe on Wednesday morning, making her the first ever woman of Asian descent recognized in the directing category.

Zhao’s nomination should not come as a surprise. “Nomadland” earned the top prize at the Venice and Toronto film festivals and the Chinese filmmaker has been picking up accolades for her work throughout the season, including best director awards from various critics organizations such as the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle.

For the record:

4:50 p.m. March 3, 2021An earlier version of this story identified Chloé Zhao as Chinese American. She is Chinese.

The Globes made history this year with three women in the directing category, as Zhao was joined by “Promising Young Woman” director Emerald Fennell and “One Night in Miami” filmmaker Regina King.


But the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has a long history of overlooking women filmmakers. Before this year, the Golden Globes’ best director race has featured female nominees only seven times in 77 years. The last woman nominated in the category was Ava DuVernay, who was a contender at the 2015 Globes for “Selma.”

The Golden Globes also has a spotty record when it comes to the work of Asian American filmmakers. Due to HFPA’s rules that fails to recognize the true diversity of the American experience, acclaimed Asian American stories such as Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” (2019) and Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” have been forced to compete at the Globes as foreign-language films instead of in the marquee drama and comedy/musical film categories. (Their filmmakers and actors are still eligible in other categories, and “Farewell” star Awkwafina made history with her own win last year.)

“Nomadland,” on the other hand, follows Frances McDormand as a woman who hits the road searching for work after the death of her husband and collapse of her small factory town. Like Zhao’s previous films (2015’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and 2017’s “The Rider”), “Nomadland” features non-actor cast members who play fictionalized versions of themselves.

Among the filmmakers of Asian descent who have previously been nominated for the Golden Globe for directing are “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho, “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee (who has won twice) and “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur.

Zhao’s next project is the highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe installment “The Eternals.”