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DGA Winner Alfonso Cuarón Builds Oscar Momentum for ‘Roma’

The DGA's top prize and the Oscar for Best Director rarely diverge.

Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Directors Guild of America Awards, Los Angeles, USA - 02 Feb 2019

Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

For the fifth time in six years, a Mexican director took home the Directors Guild of America’s top prize as Alfonso Cuarón won the DGA Award for “Roma” Saturday at the end of a long ceremony. It’s his second win after “Gravity,” for which he went on to win the directing Oscar; he is now the frontrunner for his second Academy Award, as the two groups’ selections rarely diverge.

Cuarón is the second director in DGA history to win for a foreign-language film, after Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). Last year’s DGA winner, Guillermo del Toro, who went on to win Best Director and Picture Oscars, happily presented the award to his old friend. “Gracias, cabrón,” said Cuarón.

Cuarón told IndieWire that making “Roma” has been a surprisingly cathartic journey, from recreating his childhood in Mexico City to witnessing its triumph: “I said it was going to be a film that I was going to do that nobody would see and then moving on,” he said. “But it’s been a really moving, strange process, finding the way people are responding, the way my peers are responding, and reconnecting with peers that I admire so much. And it’s almost overwhelming. I didn’t calculate that people would find [something so personal so universal]. I wish I could calculate those things.”

For his part, del Toro told IndieWire that “Roma” is a unique movie that defies categorization. “They say it’s neo-realism, but they couldn’t make this movie back then,” he said. “And the black-and-white is so different, the way he shot it [with the Alexa 65]. And the complexity of the sound…it’s so immersive.”

Per usual, each of the five dramatic feature nominees got a chance to accept their medallion before the win. Spike Lee received a rousing standing ovation for his nomination medallion for “BlacKkKlansman.” “400 years ago, my ancestors were stolen from mother Africa,” Lee said, “and along with native people, built this motherfucker.”

Accepting the DGA Documentary award, Tim Wardle, the director of CNN/Neon’s “Three Identical Strangers” (which is not Oscar-nominated), said that Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” changed his life.

And given the chance to give Bradley Cooper the concession prize of Best First Feature for “A Star Is Born,” the directors went with Bo Burnham of “Eighth Grade,” about coping with the anxieties of preparing for high school.

Film directors did well in several DGA categories. While Adam McKay did not win for “Vice,” he did take home a consolation prize for directing the drama series “Succession”; Ben Stiller won for Limited Series direction for “Escape at Dannemora”; and Spike Jonze took home an award for commercial directing.

When the DGA awards concluded, no woman had won an award in any category.

Meanwhile on a crowded guild awards weekend, producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” dominated the Annie Awards with seven wins and on Friday collected an ACE editing award, building more momentum for an Oscar upset over Brad Bird’s lauded “Incredibles 2.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Favourite” also won Eddies, for drama and comedy, respectively, while “Free Solo” took the documentary win.

The Art Directors Guild, meanwhile, handed out awards to “Crazy Rich Asians” (contemporary), “Black Panther” (fantasy), “The Favourite” (period) and “Isle of Dogs” (animation).

Bill Desowitz contributed to this report.

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