The Chinese filmmaker won the Best Director prize at Sunday's ceremony for her movie Nomadland, the Frances McDormand-starring film about a woman travelling across the US in a van after her husband's death.
In winning the Best Director Oscar, Zhao has become only the second woman in history to take the award — following Kathryn Bigelow for her 2009 war film The Hurt Locker.
Zhao also becomes the first woman of colour and first Asian woman to have attained such a prestigious honour. Hopefully, her win will open the door to greater diversity among future winners.
In accepting her Oscar on Sunday night, Zhao shared her father's words of wisdom that there is goodness in everyone — not matter how bleak our world can look at times.
"This [award] is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves, and to hold onto the goodness in each other," she told viewers
Zhao won over an impressive field of Best Director nominees this year, including Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), David Fincher (Mank), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman).
On her way to the Oscar, Zhao also picked up the British Academy Film Award, the Golden Globe Award and the Directors Guild of America Award for Nomadland. The film received six total Oscar nominations for the year.
The 93rd Academy Awards were held on Sunday, April 25 from Union Station in Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Complex in Hollywood.
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