Chloe Zhao was awarded Best Director for Nomadland at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night, becoming the first woman of color in history to win in the category and only the second woman director overall.
In her speech, Zhao thanked her Nomadland cast and crew, then offered advice on her way of coping “when things get hard.”
“I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid,” she said onstage at Los Angeles’ Union Station. “When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts, and we would recite them together and try to finish each other’s sentences.”
Zhao then recited the first phrase from the Three Character Classic, which she translated into, “People at birth are inherently good.”
“Those six [words] had such great impact on me when I was a kid,” she said. “And I still truly believe them today, even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true. But I have always found goodness in the people I met, everywhere I went in the world. So this is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves, and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that.”
Nomadland is nominated for four other awards tonight, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Frances McDormand’s role as Fern, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. The film was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to The Father.