Chloe Zhao creates DGA Awards history, becomes first Asian woman to win top prize

Chloe Zhao is also the second woman to earn the top DGA Award, after Kathryn Bigelow won for her 2009 movie The Hurt Locker.

Filmmaker Chloe Zhao won the top prize at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards for her feature film Nomadland, further bolstering the movie’s frontrunner status for the upcoming Oscars.

The Beijing-born filmmaker became the first Asian woman to win the trophy for best feature directing at the 73rd edition of the awards, which were held on Saturday, reported Deadline.

She is also the second woman to earn the top DGA Award, after Kathryn Bigelow won for her 2009 movie The Hurt Locker.

The filmmaker beat out acclaimed directors David Fincher (Mank), Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) to win the marquee award.

Nomadland features Academy Award winner Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves home to travel around the American West after losing her job. In her acceptance speech, 39-year-old Zhao gave a shout out to her fellow nominees for their respective films.

Calling Fennell “brilliant” and “daring”, Zhao said the British filmmaker has a unique voice and control over her craft.

“I can’t wait to see what thought-provoking journey you’re going to take us on next,” she added.

To Lee, Zhao said, “Your film touched me on such a personal level. You’re able to show us so much beauty and love in such an honest and authentic way, I think it’s incredible what you’ve done.”

She hailed The Trial of the Chicago 7 director Sorkin as a “poet”. “I can feel my heart beating with yours when I watch your film,” she added.

Zhao said that entire filmography of Fincher has been a “masterclass” for her and she feels inspired by him.

“You’re not only a master of the craft, you also have created some of the most nuanced and humanistic performances I’ve ever seen. Your conviction is so inspiring and there’s no one like you,” she added.

The winner of the DGA Awards’ top prize has historically been a strong indicator of which filmmaker will go on to win the best director Oscar.

However, last year saw Sam Mendes bagged the main award for war drama 1917, but eventually lost the Oscar race to South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho, who won for his movie Parasite.

Darius Marder, the man behind Riz Ahmed-starrer Sound of Metal, bagged the first-time feature film directing award.

He was pitted against Regina King of One Night in Miami, Florian Zeller of The Father, Radha Blank of The Forty-Year-Old Version and Fernando Frias De La Parra of I’m No Longer Here.

In the television segment, Scott Frank of The Queen’s Gambit fame won the directing award for TV movie and limited series. Susanna Fogel won the best directorial achievement for a comedy series for “The Flight Attendant”, while Lesli Linka Glatter took the drama series award for Homeland.

Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw won in the best documentary directing category for Sony Pictures Classics’ The Truffle Hunters.

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