April 4, 2023

By Diana Cheng
AAP Film and Arts Writer

The mostly virtual Golden Globes Awards show aired Sunday, February 28th, saw a historic win by filmmaker Chloé Zhao (趙婷). For only the second time in the 78-year history of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s (HFPA) annual celebration of films and TV, a woman wins the Best Director award. Further, Zhao is the first woman of Asian descent to do so.

Frances McDormand and Director/Writer Chloé Zhao on the set of NOMADLAND. Photo by Joshua James Richards. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

For some background reference, Barbra Streisand was the first female director to win with “Yentl” in 1984. Taiwanese American Ang Lee claimed that honor twice with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2001 and “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006, the only other director of Asian descent to take that award.  

On top of her Director’s win, Zhao’s feature “Nomadland” won Best Motion Picture – Drama, still seen as the top prize of the Golden Globes awards, often viewed as a predictor of the Awards Season’s summit, the Oscars. Zhao wrote, directed, edited, and co-produced the feature, making her the first woman producer of Asian descent to have won a Best Picture Golden Globe. 

Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

The 2021 Golden Globes is unprecedented for many reasons. Due to Covid 19, this year is a much scaled down, mostly virtual event, hosted by Amy Poehler from the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and Tina Fey from the Rainbow Room in New York. Many nominees were right in their home watching, receiving awards, and looking into their small screen to deliver their acceptance speeches. Admirably, the HFPA honored first responders and essential workers of the pandemic, some of whom were seated wearing mask at socially distant tables as live audience. 

Glitches were expected and did happen. However, it is interesting to see the technical wizardry in placing the two hosts from opposite coasts together in one frame, even the background design matched, while they acted as if they were standing beside one another, as Fey, supposedly, stretched out her hand to caress Poehler’s hair. 

Due to the pandemic, the glamor of the Globes is essentially stripped to the minimal. While there were still some notably designer fashion adorning a few stars at the Beverley Hilton, most of the nominees were at home in the attire they were comfortable in. 

The Best Director and Best Motion Picture winner Zhao wore an olive color T-shirt, hair in pigtails, sharing her thoughts in a most unassuming manner, something that is impossible to imagine should another red-carpet, Globe extravaganza had taken place as before.

Apparently happy for her win, Zhao shared these words from nomad Bob Wells:

“Compassion is the breakdown of all the barriers between us. A heart-to-heart bonding. Your pain is my pain. It’s mingled and shared between us.”

She then went on to say, “this is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories cause it gives us the chance to laugh and cry with each other… and have more compassion for each other.” 

In another notable win, Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” took the Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language prize. The film is an immigrant story based on Chung’s childhood experience. The feature has received numerous accolades before its Globe win, including the AFI Awards for 2021 Movie of the Year.

Both filmmakers’ win in this year’s Golden Globes is a positive trend that should be encouraged. More and more artists from minority cultures are telling their own personal stories. While at the same time, there are those who, like Zhao, are embraced into the ‘mainstream’ film industry with respect and appreciation. Such a nod to diversity could bring much needed enrichment to cinema which would subsequently be rewarding for viewers as well. 


Correction: Upon clarification from Chloé Zhao’s publicist, this writer has deleted the term ‘Asian American’ when referring to Zhao.

Contact Diana Cheng at [email protected], on Twitter @Arti_Ripples or her blog Ripple Effects rippleeffects.reviews

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