LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron on Saturday (Feb 2) scooped the Directors Guild of America (DGA) award for Roma - a strong indicator he will be named best director at the Oscars in three weeks' time.
Roma, a highly personal ode to Cuaron's own childhood in 1970s Mexico City, is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best director.
Cuaron, who won the same accolade for Gravity in 2014, thanked stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tariva, along with the rest of the cast for bringing a memory to life.
"Thank Libo (the domestic worker who inspired the film), my mother and my country, the real architect of Roma," he added.
In a previous speech upon being presented as a nominee, Cuaron highlighted that there are over 70 million domestic workers in the world - not including children.
"Roma was the story of one of them," he said.
"When we villainise them, demonise them, calling them criminals and rapist, we diminish ourselves ... this is not about politics, this is about humanity," he added, referring to United States President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric.
Cuaron received the top prize on Saturday from compatriot Guillermo del Toro, who won last year for The Shape Of Water. Speaking to Agence France-Presse, Del Toro said the film was "absolutely superb, perfect and very complicated."
Cuaron beat out Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Peter Farrelly (Green Book) and Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born). He is the second director to be awarded the prize for a foreign language film: Lee Ang won in 2000 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Elsewhere, Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade) won the award for first-time feature - an award that was widely expected to go to Cooper. A Star Is Born started the awards seasons as a hot favourite, but the anticipated success has not materialised.
The DGA short list is considered an Oscars bellwether. Last year's DGA winner, Guillermo del Toro (The Shape Of Water), went on to win the same prize at the Oscars and the film took best picture honours.