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In this file photo taken on September 5, 2015, US-Chinese director Chloe Zhao poses during a photocall to present the movie "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" in the French northwestern sea resort of Deauville, during the 41th Deauville US Film Festival. Image Credit: AFP

Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell have been nominated for outstanding directorial achievement by the Directors Guild, marking the first time two women have ever competed for the guild’s top honour.

The 73rd Annual DGA Awards, considered a strong indicator of directing honours at the Academy Awards, announced nominees Tuesday. In the more than seven decades of the awards, only nine times before had a female filmmaker been nominated for best director. Most recent was Greta Gerwig in 2018 for ‘Lady Bird.’

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In this file photo taken on January 25, 2020, Emerald Fennell attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

But on Tuesday, Zhao — widely considered the front-runner for the directing Oscar — was nominated for her much-acclaimed ‘Nomadland,’ about a woman (Frances McDormand) travelling the American West while living in her van. Zhao recently became the second woman to ever win best director at the Golden Globes, and the first woman of Asian descent. She was joined in the DGA Awards by Fennell, who made her directorial debut with the black revenge comedy ‘Promising Young Woman.’

Also nominated were Lee Isaac Chung (‘Minari’), Aaron Sorkin (‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’) and David Fincher (‘Mank’).

In the past 17 years, 15 DGA winners went on to win at the Oscars, though they diverged last year when Sam Mendes (‘1917’) was the guild’s pick and Bong Joon-ho (‘Parasite’) triumphed at the Academy Awards.

The DGA’s first-time feature category was also atypically diverse, with three people of colour among the nominees. Nominated were Radha Blank (‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’), Regina King (‘One Night in Miami ...’), Fernando Frias de la Parra (‘I’m No Longer Here’), Darius Marder (‘Sound of Metal’) and Florian Zeller (‘The Father’).

The Directors Guild Awards will be held virtually April 20.