LOS ANGELES — Director Chloe Zhao won the top prize at the 73rd annual Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday for "Nomadland," certifying the elegiac exploration of the lives of itinerant workers in the American West as the film to beat at the Academy Awards.
Zhao is only the second woman, and the first woman of color, to earn the top DGA Award, after Kathryn Bigelow won for 2009's "The Hurt Locker."
Accepting, like all the winners, over Zoom, Zhao used her entire speech to pay heartfelt tribute to each of her fellow nominees.
To "Promising Young Woman" director Emerald Fennell, Zhao said, "You're in such control of your craft, and with such unique voice. I can't wait to see what thought provoking journey you're gonna pick up on next."
She told "Minari" director Lee Isaac Chung that his film "touched me on such a personal level."
After calling "The Trial of the Chicago 7" director Aaron Sorkin "a poet," Zhao said, "I can feel my heart beating with yours when I watch your film."
And Zhao said that all of the movies from "Mank" director David Fincher are a "master class," but her biggest discovery about him was more personal: "You are also super funny, I just found out!"
With his win for first-time feature film, "Sound of Metal" director Darius Marder continued the Amazon Studios film's ascendant awards season run. Marder thanked his fellow nominees, expressing his hope that once the pandemic is over, he can actually meet them in person.
"It's incredible to be in your company," he said. "I raise a plastic hotel cup to you guys."
Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw won the documentary award for the Sony Pictures Classics film "The Truffle Hunters."
"We made this film because we stumbled on a world that felt like a fairy tale, and we wanted to translate that into cinematic form," Kershaw said. "We wanted to celebrate the joy and beauty that still exists in this world."
Susanna Fogel won the first award of the night, for TV comedy for directing the premiere episode of HBO Max's "The Flight Attendant."
Lesli Linka Glatter won the TV drama award for the final season of Showtime's "Homeland," which she accepted surrounded by her "fully vaccinated" directing team. Scott Frank won the TV movie and limited series award for directing every episode of the Netflix limited series "The Queen's Gambit."
Amy Schatz took home the award for children's programs for HBO's "We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest." Joseph Guidry won the reality TV award for HBO Max's "Full Bloom" for the episode "Petal to the Metal."
Melina Matsoukas won the commercials award for a Beats by Dr. Dre advertisement; it was presented by director Spike Jonze, who has won multiple DGA awards for advertising, and comedian Tiffany Haddish.
Don Roy King won his sixth consecutive Variety/Talk/News/Sports series award for "Saturday Night Live," for the episode hosted by Dave Chappelle.