The fantasy romance The Shape of Water has added another key prize in its awards season run with Guillermo del Toro's win at the Directors Guild Awards.
The Shape of Water, about a mute woman who falls in love with an underwater creature, has emerged as the awards season front runner with a Producers Guild Award and a leading 13 Academy Award nominations.
Del Toro said his movie is one that is "full of many reasons why it shouldn't work and they are the reasons that it works". He dedicated the honour to his mother and father, who has been ill.
He won out over fellow directors Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) and Jordan Peele (Get Out) although Peele did win the prize for first-time feature film for his blockbuster horror film.
"This whole thing is a very surreal, conflicting experience. This has been the best year of my life hand's down," Peele said. "At the same time I've had to balance that with the knowledge that this is not a good year for this country. This is not a good year for many of us."
Other winners included Matthew Heineman for the documentary City of Ghosts, Jean-Marc Valle for Big Little Lies, Reed Morano for The Handmaid's Tale and Glenn Weiss for directing the 89th Academy Awards.
The Directors Guild Awards serve as a reliable predictor for who will eventually win the best director prize at the Academy Awards.
Last year, La La Land helmer Damien Chazelle won both prizes. This year, all but McDonagh are nominated in the category (Paul Thomas Anderson took the fifth Oscars spot for directing Phantom Thread).