Chloé Zhao becomes the first Asian woman to win the Golden Globe for best director.

By Matt Stevens

Chloé Zhao, whose drama “Nomadland” offered an intimate portrait of itinerant Americans, won the Golden Globe for best director on Sunday, making her the first Asian woman ever to win that prize.

In taking home the award, Zhao also became the first woman to be named best director since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl” almost 40 years ago. It was the first time in Golden Globes history that three women had been nominated in the category.

Earlier in the night, Zhao had also been nominated in the best screenplay” category. (Aaron Sorkin won for the “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”) “Nomadland” is also up for the best picture Golden Globe in the drama category, and its star, Frances McDormand, is up for an acting trophy.

The much-praised “Nomadland” follows Fern (McDormand) as she travels the country in a van, picking up itinerant work (in an Amazon warehouse and elsewhere) and making connections with other American wanderers. Zhao, who adapted the movie from Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book of the same name, largely used nonprofessionals in the cast, including people from Bruder’s book.

Zhao captured the essence of the story discussing it for Anatomy of a Scene, the New York Times series. She recounted the scene in which Fern (Frances McDormand) wanders through Badlands National Park. “She’s exploring,” Zhao said, “but she’s also lost at the same time.”

Though Zhao has been known for indie dramas like this one and “The Rider” from 2018, her next film is on a much different scale: the Marvel superhero movie “Eternals.”

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