Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao Make History for Female Directors at 2021 Oscars

Emerald Fennell, Chloe Zhao
Colomba Giacomini and Amy Sussman/Getty Images

For the first time, a women of color has been nominated for Best Director.

A breakthrough year for female directors is set to continue at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards. The 2021 Oscars nominations were announced on Monday, with Nomadland's Chloe Zhao and Promising Young Woman's Emerald Fennell landing nominations for Best Director -- the first time in Oscars history that more than one woman has been nominated in the category.

The trio became just the sixth and seventh women ever to be recognized in the category, alongside David Fincher for Mank, Lee Isaac Chung for Minari and Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round.

Zhao has also made history ahead of this year's ceremony, as the first Asian woman ever to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars -- she is just the fifth Asian Best Director nominee, following Hiroshi Teshigahara, Akira Kurosawa, Ang Lee and Bong Joon-ho.

“I’m so thrilled for our nominations! Thank you to the Academy. I’m grateful to have gone on this journey with our talented team of filmmakers and to have met so many wonderful people who generously shared their stories with us. Thank you so much to my academy peers for recognizing this film that is very close to my heart,” Zhao said.  

At the Golden Globes last month, Zhao became just the second woman ever to win Best Director, following Barbra Streisand for Yentl in 1984. The statistics for female Best Director nominees and winners at the two awards shows are historically similar -- of the five past Academy Awards nominees, just one has taken home the Oscar: Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker in 2010.

Additionally, both Zhao and Fennell were recognized in the writing categories, with Zhao nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Fennell nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Fennell celebrated her nominations with a hearty "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" on Twitter. "So proud and grateful to every amazing person who worked on this film," she added. "Never going to stop crying.

The Oscars have become notorious in recent for snubbing female Best Director nominees. Recent years have seen contenders like Lulu Wang and Marielle Heller and more go unrecognized, even as their films were celebrated in other categories. Prior to 2021, Greta Gerwig was the last woman to be nominated in the category, for 2017's Lady Bird.

The 2021 Oscars air live on Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Oscars coverage.