La La Land swept up another major Hollywood prize in its bid for Oscars glory, as Damien Chazelle was honoured at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards.
Damien, who directed the musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, won the DGA Award for feature film at the star-studded ceremony in Los Angeles.
The award is seen as an accurate predictor for Academy Award success, as 12 of the last 13 winners have gone on to win the Oscar for best director.
On stage, Damien, 32, said: “I’m a movie maker because I love movies. I was three years old watching Cinderella on loop.
“I felt that movies were powerful because they speak to everyone: all countries all cultures.”
Damien is bidding to become the youngest ever winner of the best director award at the Oscars on February 26, where La La Land has earned a record-equalling 14 nominations.
Ryan, who attended the DGA Awards with his co-star Emma, said Damien had “great vision, unbridled creativity and is a real collaborator.”
“He directed his birth in a single take,” the film star joked.
Alejandro Inarritu, the Oscar-winning director of Birdman and The Revenant, appeared to take aim at US president Donald Trump’s administration before he presented the award to Damien.
“We all know the story being written now is really, really bad,” he said on stage.
“Actually it’s a bad remake of one of the worst stories of the last century.
“The only way we win is by telling good, complex and truthful human stories. No alternative facts or false statistics will defeat that.”
Denis Villeneuve, the French Canadian director of Oscar-nominated film Arrival, had earlier referred on stage to Mr Trump’s controversial travel ban.
“In the morning the first thing I do is go on Twitter to see if my visa is still legal,” he said.
British director Sir Ridley Scott was presented with a lifetime achievement award by actor Michael Fassbender.
On stage, the Alien director, 79, said: “My fellow directors, I salute you. Do try to raise the bar and most importantly, try not to punch anyone because I’ve come close quite a few times.”
Paying tribute to Sir Ridley, Christopher Nolan, who directed the Dark Knight trilogy, said: “If I was asked to point to one filmmaker who inspired me to get into film, it would be Sir Ridley Scott.”
Australian director Garth Davis won the DGA for first-time feature film for his moving drama Lion.
The film, which has earned Oscar nominations for its stars Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, tells the true story of a young man who was adopted in Australia and uses Google Earth to trace his family in India.
Collecting his award, Garth paid tribute to the cast including child actor Sunny Pawar, who was sat next to Nicole at the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hotel.
“There’s no doubt as a director, I was lucky,” Garth said.
“I was gifted such a magnificent and beautiful script but with that came immense responsibility.
“The first half of the film relies on the performance of a five-year-old child who did not speak English. I love you Sunny.”
There was more British success as Miguel Sapochnik won the DGA Award for dramatic series for Game Of Thrones.
And fellow Briton Becky Martin won the DGA for a comedy series for her work on the political satire Veep.
On stage, Martin thanked the show’s creator Armando Iannucci and its star Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her “boundless energy”.
“She’s not a bad actor – one to look for in the future if you’re casting,” Becky joked.