Chloé Zhao Becomes First Asian Woman to Win Best Director as HFPA Deals with Diversity

Amid the scandals recently revealed about Hollywood Foreign Press Association members enjoying a free vacation in Paris as part of a promotion for “Emily in Paris” and the revelation that there is no current Black members of the HFPA, diversity was not an issue with either the nominees or the winners. For the 78th Golden Globe Awards Ceremony–a bi-coastal  choreographed virtual presentation hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Chloé Zhao made history by becoming the first Asian woman to win Best Director – Motion Picture for her third feature film “Nomadland.”

Zhao is only the second woman to win a Best Director Golden Globe. Barbra Streisand won in 1983 for “Yentl.” Zhao has also been nominated for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, but lost to Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) Zhao was also the first Chinese and Asian woman nominated in this category, however, Zhao’s historic nomination was been largely overshadowed by the controversy over “Minari.” “Minari” won Best Motion Picture – Foreign Film. The placement in that category was not the choice of the HFPA, and “Minari” was not moved into that category. 

Zhao is also the only Chinese person to win Best Director. Taiwanese American Ang Lee won in 2000 for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and in 2005 for “Brokeback Mountain.” Lee has been nominated four times.

Minari” became only the second US film to win in this category. Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” won in 2006. Although there was criticism that the lead actor for “Minari,” Steven Yuen, was not nominated, this year, none of the actors from films in this category were nominated, including Sophia Loren. Last year, Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” was nominated but lost to Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” however, two actors from films in this category were nominated: Awkwafina (“The Farewell”) and Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”). But only Awkwafina went on to win.

Golden Globe Winners & Diversity

This year’s nominations did show diversity. Despite complaints that the nomination of “Emily in Paris” and the non-nomination of “I May Destroy You,” showed racism within the HPFA, four-fifth’s of this year’s winners scored for diversity in the representation of women and minorities. .

Zhao was one of three women nominated for Best Director. Zhao adapted the “Nomadland” from Jessica Bruderk’s 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” The film stars 63-year-old Frances McDormand who missed picking up another Golden Globe this year, but won Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama in 2018 for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand has two Oscars and two Primetime Emmys. McDormand has been nominated for Golden Globes seven times.

The Nielsen study on diversity found that women over 50 were underrepresented on television, but at the Golden Globes, the 52-year-old Gillian Anderson won Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for “The Crown.” The 58-year-old Jodie Foster, who started out as a child actress, won Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture for “The Mauritanian.” The 66-year-old Catherine O’Hara won Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for “Schitt’s Creek.”

Two women , Diane Warren and Laura Pausini, shared a Golden Globe with Niccolò Agliardi for Best Original Song – Motion Picture–“Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) which starred the 86-year-old Sophia Loren.

“Emily in Paris” did not win its category of Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. That honor went to “Schitt’s Creek,” a Canadian sitcom created by a Jewish father and son, Eugene and Dan Levy, who also lead the cast. The lead for “Emily in Paris,” Lily Collins, the daughter of Phil Collins and actress Jill Tavelman, is part Jewish herself. Lily Collins was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy but lost to “Schitt’s Creek” actress Catherine O’Hara.

If BBC One and HBO’s “I May Destroy You” had been nominated, it would have competed with “The Crown,” HBO Max’s “Lovecraft Country,” “The Mandalorian,” “Ozark” and “Ratched.” The winner, “The Crown,” scores for diversity as a female-centric drama. This category wasn’t lacking in diversity. “Lovecraft Country” stars two Black actors: Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett. “The Mandalorian” stars Chilean American Pedro Pascal. “Ratched” has a female lead, Sarah Paulson.

Diversity in terms of Black winners included the late Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), John Boyega for (“Small Axe”), Daniel Kaluuya for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture(“Judas and the Black Messiah”), and Andra Day for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”).

The Pixar Animation Studios computer animated feature, “Soul,” featured a Black male main character voiced by Jamie Foxx and its co-director Kemp Powers became the first debut Black filmmaker to win animated feature Golden Globe. Released by Walt Disney Pictures, “Soul” also won Best Original Score – Motion Picture for Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste. Batiste is Black.

Nationwide, Blacks represent 13 percent of the population but in Los Angeles County only 9 percent. That equates to three (US) or two (Los Angeles County) to reflect the populations. If anything the winners list shows over representation of Blacks.

Asian Americans are only 6 percent of the nation’s population but 15 percent in Los Angeles County. That translates to one and four. Zhao’s two wins and the “Minari” win gives East Asians three.

The Jewish religious minority who make up about two percent of the US population were represented by Canada’s “Schitt’s Creek” which won Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, Aaron Sorkin who won Best Screenplay – Motion Picture for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and Sacha Baron Cohen who won for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios). That film also won Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The Carol Burnett Award honoree, Norman Lear is also Jewish.

The group that is under-represented even amongst the nominations, is the Hispanic/Latino population. To match the US population demographic, there would have to be four winners and to match the Los Angeles County population percentage of 48.6 percent, there should be 12 winners.

Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”) is of Spanish descent on her mother’s side and her father is Argentinian. Although born in Miami, she was raised in Buenos Aires and grew up speaking Spanish until her parents moved to London when she was six. Taylor-Joy had two nominations, but only left with one Golden Globe, for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film. She has also been nominated for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for “Emma.” Rosamund Pike won that category for “I Care a Lot.”

“The Queen’s Gambit” also won Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. That would only give Latinos two wins.

With the number of Spanish-speaking journalists in Los Angeles County, the question of diversity raised by the Nielsen’s recent study also applies to the HFPA. Without a single Black member, this year’s winners were diverse and gave awards to Black performers and musicians. Yet it is the Hispanic/Latino population that is under-represented in the nominations and the winners.



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