Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” cemented its Oscar front-runner status Wednesday, winning the top award at the 32nd annual Producers Guild of America Awards.

“Nomadland,” Zhao’s recession-era portrait of itinerant people in the American West, is only the second film directed by a woman to win the producers’ Darryl F. Zanuck award for outstanding producer of a motion picture. The other was Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.

In a delayed, virtual and very long awards season that has marched along during the pandemic with little of the usual pomp, declaring a clear front-runner has been challenging. But if any film could claim that mantle, it’s “Nomadland,” winner of the Golden Globe best picture award for drama. Zhao, too, is considered the favorite for best director. If she does win, she would only the second female director to do so, again after Bigelow.

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