Chloe Zhao Nomadland

Nomadland, a sweeping vision of nomadic Americans at the edge of society, won the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday as the film’s director, Chloé Zhao, became the second woman and first woman of color to win Best Director.

Zhao said as she accepted the directing award that when she was a child in China, she learned a simple six-word phrase that stays with her today: “People at birth are inherently good.”

“I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere I went in the world,” she said. “So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves. And to hold on to the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that. And this is for you, you inspire me to keep going.”

Frances McDormand, a producer of Nomadland as well as the films star, won Best Actress for her role as Fern, a woman who takes to the road in a van she calls Vanguard after she loses her husband – and her entire town goes broke. She urged audiences to see Nomadland and all the Oscar-nominated films in a theater, as soon as it is safe.

The ceremony itself offered a preview of how a post-pandemic world may look: The attendees went maskless when cameras were on, and wore masks during breaks, in keeping with Hollywood production protocols.

Regina King said at the top of the ceremony that it was possible for the attendees to gather together because all had “been vaxxed, tested, re-tested and socially distanced.”

Nomadland, with its wide open spaces and rootlessness, spoke to audiences who longed for mobility and freedom after months in lockdown — but also knew well the loss of stability and security brought on by the virus.