Nomadland director Chloe Zhao enjoyed a night to remember at the Oscars and capped a dominant awards season.

The Chinese filmmaker won best director – becoming the first woman of colour to do so – and Nomadland won best picture.

The film, which follows itinerant communities in the post-recession US, also picked up best actress for its star Frances McDormand.

93rd Academy Awards – Press Room
Chloe Zhao made history with her best director Oscar win (Chris Pizzello/AP)

There was no surprise when Nomadland was called for best picture as the road movie had swept all before it in the months before Hollywood’s biggest night.

The film, Zhao’s third, took the top prize at ceremonies including the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, Gotham Independent Film Awards, Baftas, British Independent Film Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, Producers Guild Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Last year it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the people’s choice award at the Toronto Film Festival.

Its repeated successes meant it was the odds-on favourite heading into Oscars weekend.

Similarly, Zhao was widely seen as a shoo-in for best director.

Like her film, she had almost completely dominated at preceding ceremonies.

She won the Golden Globe and the Bafta for best director, alongside wins at the Critics’ Choice Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

93rd Academy Awards – Press Room
Producers Peter Spears, from left, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey, with their Oscars for best picture (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Zhao, 39, was only the second woman to win the best director Oscar, following Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

Made for a low budget, Nomadland was adapted from Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction bestselling book Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century, about the rootless community in the US, and many of the nomads who appear in the book also feature in the film.

McDormand, 63, plays Fern, a widow who loses her job and embarks on a journey across the country, adamant she is “not homeless, just houseless”.

She makes ends meet working in an Amazon warehouse, as well as other zero-hour contract jobs, and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills for the road from other nomads.

During her best actress acceptance speech, McDormand, now a three-time winner of the accolade, urged viewers to see the movie in a cinema.

It features stunning shots of the American West from Cornish cinematographer Joshua James Richards.

McDormand said: “Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible and one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theatre, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”