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Two Asian American directors could win Oscar nominations

Steve Yeun and Yeri Han star in Minari. A24 photo

For the first time in Oscar history, two Asians may be up for a Best Director Oscar.

Gold Derby just moved Lee Isaac Chung onto its list of the five directors most likely to be nominated for an Oscar.

Chung directed the critical hit Minari starring Steve Yeun and Yeri Han. Gold Derby’s Oscar odds are based on the opinion of Gold Derby experts.

The movie sparked controversy when the Golden Globes put Minari in the foreign film category, although the subject matter is American and set in Arkansas.

The other Asian director on Gold Derby’s list is Chloe Zhao for Nomadland. Zhao is Gold Derby’s top choice for a director Oscar nod.

Chloe Zhao
Chloe Zhao is seen on the left on the set of The Rider. Photo from Sony Pictures Classics

Zhao is also Variety’s top pick. Nomadland stars Frances McDormand who leaves a small town to travel the American West.

Zhao has done several films set in rural areas and Native American reservations. She grew up in Beijing, spent part of her childhood in London before going to high school in Los Angeles, college at Mount Holyoke near Boston and then attending film school at NYU.

“I was living in big cities most of my life and I was in my late 20s and I wanted to go somewhere that things are not moving so fast,” Zhao told AsAmNews during an interview in 2018. “Just trying to figure out where I belong. At that point I had feelings toward the open space.  Around that time, there were a lot of reports, young people struggled on the reservation.  It’s not like a one moment kind of thing. It just started building up. So I took a trip out to South Dakota and during that trip, I felt very connected to the place.”

Also making onto Variety’s top five list for Best Director is Chung. Variety ranks Chung as its number three pick.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Chung said he based the movie on his own family, but hesitated to tell them. As he told them more about the film, they began suspected they might be part of the story.

Chung recalls sitting nervously as his mother, sister and father watched the film for the first time. Him mom and sister laughed and cried. His father sat silent.

“At the end, all he said was, ‘Good movie,’ Chung said to the Hollywood Reporter. “He came back and we hugged for five minutes. I think he felt that I understood him.”

The Oscar nominations are scheduled to be announced on February 13.

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