For the first time, two women are nominated for the top Directors Guild of America award

"Nomadland" director Chloé Zhao sitting in the backyard of her home.
Director Chloé Zhao, in her backyard, has been nominated by the DGA for her work on “Nomadland.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

After two consecutive years in which women were excluded from the feature film category entirely, this year’s lineup of Directors Guild Awards nominees includes two, a new record that also marks the first time two women will compete against one another in the category.

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) have been nominated this year alongside Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), David Fincher (“Mank”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”).

Last month, Zhao took home the director prize at the Golden Globes for “Nomadland,” which also won the award for best picture, drama. She was the first woman of Asian descent and just the second female director to do so.

Zhao and Fennell also received Golden Globe nominations this year, marking the first time multiple women were nominated in the Globes’ directing category.


Fennell, who is also an actress, portrayed Camilla Parker Bowles for two seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown.”

The last time a woman was included in the feature film category at the DGA Awards was in 2018, when Greta Gerwig received a nod for “Lady Bird.” Last year’s all-male nominees were Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”), Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”), Bong Joon-Ho (“Parasite”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) and Sam Mendes (“1917”).

‘Minari,’ ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ are among the best picture contenders in the Producers Guild nominations announced Monday.

March 8, 2021

Before this year, the directors guild had nominated a woman in the feature film category just nine times: Gerwig, Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties”), Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”), Barbra Streisand (“The Prince of Tides”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”), Valerie Faris (with Jonathan Dayton, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”). Bigelow is the only woman to win, for “The Hurt Locker.”

Receiving a Directors Guild nod is generally considered a strong harbinger of Oscar nominations and wins — but Haines, Streisand and Faris did not land on the Oscar list after their DGA recognition. And Bigelow, who also remains the only woman to win a directing Oscar, was overlooked by the film academy for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Fifteen of the last 17 winners of the DGA award have gone on to win the Oscar. One exception came last year, when DGA winner Mendes lost to Bong at the Oscars.

The DGA also announced nominees in the first-time feature category, which is now in its sixth consecutive year. Last year, the five nominees included three women: Mati Diop for “Atlantics,” Melina Matsoukas for “Queen & Slim” and the eventual winner, Alma Har’el for “Honey Boy.”

This year’s nominees are Radha Blank (“The Forty-Year-Old Version”), Fernando Frías de la Parra (“I’m No Longer Here”), Regina King (“One Night in Miami...”), Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”) and Florian Zeller (“The Father”).

King was nominated for a Golden Globe alongside Zhao, Fennell, Fincher and Sorkin.

The Directors Guild Awards ceremony will take place virtually on April 10, just over two weeks before the Academy Awards are held on April 25.