By Deepa Lakshmin
At the insistence of Bong Joon-ho â€” whose Parasite swept the Oscars last year with four wins â€” the five visionaries nominated for this yearâ€™s Academy Award for Best Directing had one not-so-simple task ahead of the 2021 show Sunday night (April 25) at Los Angelesâ€™s Union Station. They had to answer the question: â€œIf you have to explain to a random kid on the street what directing is in 20 seconds, what would you say?â€
For ChloÃ© Zhao, itâ€™s about â€œshedding the skin of who we think we are and walking in another personâ€™s shoes.â€ Her Nomadland, which landed her the Oscar for Best Director and features real-life nomads, does exactly that. It gives you a look at what itâ€™s like to live a lifestyle on the road where youâ€™re not homeless, exactly, but â€œhouseless,â€ as the filmâ€™s trailer touts.
Itâ€™s a historic win. Zhao is the first woman of color and the second woman ever to take home the Academy Award for Best Directing, beating out Another Roundâ€™s Thomas Vinterberg, Mankâ€™s David Fincher, Minariâ€™s Lee Isaac Chung, and Promising Young Womanâ€™s Emerald Fennell at the 93rd annual ceremony. Nomadland itself was nominated for six awards, making it a must-see movie of the awards season. (FYI: Itâ€™s streaming now on Hulu.)
â€œIâ€™ve been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard, and I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid,â€ Zhao said in her winning speech. â€œWhen I was growing up in China, my dad and I used to play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts, and we would recite it together and try to finish each otherâ€™s sentences. Thereâ€™s one that I remember so dearly.” It’s called “The Three Character Classic.”
She went on to share a phrase thatâ€™s stuck with her for decades thanks to this game: â€œPeople at birth are inherently goodâ€¦ Sometimes, it may seem like the opposite is true, but I have always found goodness in the people Iâ€™ve met everywhere I went in the world.â€
Because of this, she dedicated her award to â€œanyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselvesâ€ and â€œthe goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that… This is for you, you inspire me to keep going.â€
Find all the 2021 Oscar winners right here.