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Chloé Zhao Makes Golden Globes History as Second Woman to Win Best Director Prize

The first and only time a woman won Best Director before Zhao was Barbra Streisand for “Yentl.”

Chloe Zhao

Chloé Zhao won the Golden Globe for Best Director, a history-making victory as she is now just the second woman to win the category in the Globes’ 78-year history. The first and previously only woman to win Best Director at the Globes was Barbra Streisand for “Yentl.” Zhao was awarded Best Director for her work on “Nomadland,” which also won her the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Zhao’s fellow nominees in 2021 were David Fincher (“Mank”), Regina King (“One Night in Miami”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman), and Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”).

Even before the 2021 Golden Globes ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made history by nominating three women for Best Director. Never before had more than one woman filmmaker been nominated in the category in a single year. Zhao, Fennell, and King’s nominations marked the first time in six years that women directors landed a spot in the Best Director category. Prior to 2021, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay was the last woman to compete in the category at the 2015 Golden Globes.

The 2021 Globes brought the total number of women nominated for Best Director up to eight in 78 years. Streisand has two nominations, one for “Yentl” and one for “The Prince of Tides,” as does Kathryn Bigelow, one for “The Hurt Locker” and one for “Zero Dark Thirty.” The other three women nominated at the Globes for Best Director are DuVernay, Jane Campion for “The Piano,” and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation.” Streisand for “Yentl” and Zhao for “Nomadland” are the only winners.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association came under fire in recent years for repeatedly shutting female filmmakers out of its Best Director category. Natalie Portman famously called out the HFPA while presenting the Best Director category at the 2018 Golden Globes, saying, “And here are the all-male nominees.” Greta Gerwig’s snub for “Lady Bird” at the 2018 ceremony caused a significant uproar as her film earned nominations for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) for Saoirse Ronan, and Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf, winning the middle two categories.

“Nomadland” is Zhao’s third feature following “Songs My Brother Taught Me” and “The Rider.” Next up for Zhao is Marvel’s “Eternals” for Disney and a science-fiction Western spin on “Dracula” for Universal. “Nomadland” is now streaming on Hulu.

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