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La La Land takes top prize at Directors Guild of America Awards

La La Land

Story by Jack Foley

DAMIEN Chazelle’s seemingly unstoppable march towards Oscars success gained further momentum at the weekend when La La Land took home the top prize at the 69th annual Directors Guild of America Awards.

The DGA prize is widely considered to be an especially important Oscar harbinger since, on all but seven occasions since its inception, the winner has gone on to claim the best directing Academy Award.

Picking up the trophy on his first nomination, a clearly delighted Chazelle commented: “I’m a movie-maker because I’m a movie lover, first and foremost.

“Movies are powerful, because they speak to everyone. They speak to all countries, all cultures.”

Recalling his excitement when he discovered the French new wave cinema, he likened his own movie to “my own American answer to the French answer to American musicals, if that makes any sense”.

Chazelle beat out Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins, Manchester By The Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan, Arrival‘s Denis Villeneuve and Lion‘s Garth Davis for the best feature-film directing award. Incredibly, all five were first-time DGA Award nominees for feature directing in a year when the veteran likes of Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson didn’t get a look in.

And of the names on that shortlist, Davis didn’t go home empty-handed. He won the DGA Awards’ best first-time feature directing award for the Weinstein Company release, thereby denying Deadpool‘s Tim Miller and The Birth of a Nation‘s Nate Parker, among others.

Ezra Edelman won the best documentary directing prize for O.J.: Made in America – tightening that film’s grip on the Oscar.

Among the notable TV winners were Miguel Sapochnik, who took the prize for best dramatic TV series direction for staging the massive The Battle of the Bastards episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Becky Martin, for the comedy series category, for the Inauguration episode of HBO’s Veep.

Writer-turned-director Steven Zaillian also picked up a trophy in the movies for TV/mini-series category, for HBO’s The Night Of.