Chloe Zhao has been named Best Director at the Oscars in a historic win that made her the first Asian woman and only the second woman ever to take home the trophy.
Zhao, 39, won for Nomadland, about the traveling van community in modern America. She called making the film a "crazy, once-in-a-lifetime journey".
It has been 11 years since Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the director Oscar, for Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker.
Zhao's win added momentum to an expected Best Picture win for Nomadland later in the ceremony. It also set the stage for what could be a milestone night if all four acting prizes go to people of colour for the first time in the 93-year history of the Academy Awards.
Zhao, who now lives in the US, recalled growing up in China, where she came to believe that "people at birth are inherently good".
"This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves... and in each other," she added.
Britain's Daniel Kaluuya was among the early winners at the pandemic-era Oscars ceremony that brought back glamour and in-person appearances after a year of mostly Zoom awards shows.
Kaluuya, 32, was named best supporting actor for his role as 1960s Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah.
"How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed," Kaluuya said, referring to Hampton.
"There is so much work to be done."
Social distancing and travel restrictions forced a complete rethink of the ceremony, moving it to US in downtown Los Angeles and shifting the nominated original song performances into a pre-show that was recorded in advance.
After strict COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols, many celebrities were not wearing masks and were shown chatting in an outdoor courtyard ahead of the ceremony, which took place on a nightclub-style set inside the Mission Revival-style train station.
"This was indeed a hard year for everyone, but our love for movies helped to get us through it," said presenter Regina King, who kicked off the ceremony.
"Yes, we are doing it maskless," said King. "Think of this as a movie set, an Oscars movie with a cast of over 200 nominees."
Celebrities were delighted to be back together in the same room.
"It's an amazing party! I was surprised. We haven't had that," Margot Robbie told reporters before the show began.
"We're so excited to be out of the house!" said Reese Witherspoon.
Denmark's alcoholism dark comedy tale Another Round was named the best international feature film. An emotional Thomas Vinterberg dedicated his Oscar to his daughter, who died in a car accident shortly before he started shooting the film.
The #MeToo revenge tale Promising Young Woman won an original screenplay trophy for Briton Emerald Fennell. French playwright Florian Zeller won adapted screenplay for The Father.
The winners are chosen in a secret ballot by the 9000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.