The Directors Guild of America announced the winners of its Directorial Achievement Awards for 2021, during its award ceremony at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton Hotel. The event hosted an audience of over 800 guests, and awards were presented by an array of noteworthy actors and directors, including Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Andrew Garfield, Brian Cox, Kirsten Dunst, and others.
The event was hosted by Judd Apatow, who rather intriguingly demanded that his opening monologue be blacked out so that it could not be covered by the media.
Since its founding in 1936, the DGA has been an advocate for both the economic and creative rights of filmmakers; has established security in the film industry, through assured royalties as well as pension and health care plans; and sought to ensure that new distribution methods do not leave filmmakers behind. The organisation represents over 18,600 directors and other creative film personnel. The annual awards offer recognition specifically to film and television directors, from their peers, for outstanding directorial work.
The preeminent award of the night, for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Theatrical Feature Film, went to Jane Campion for her recent neo-Western drama, The Power of the Dog. Campion was previously nominated by the DGA for her Oscar-winning 1993 period drama, The Piano. Campion beat out four very impressive nominees to take the award: Denis Villeneuve for Dune; Steven Spielberg for West Side Story; Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza; and Kenneth Branagh for Belfast.
Campion used the opportunity during her reception of the award to not only thank fellow nominee Paul Thomas Anderson from the stage, describing him as “my teacher, the master”, but also to praise the previous year’s winner, director Chloe Zhao, exclaiming: “I’m so proud of this woman. She’s made history, and she’s made everything better… I’m so excited about the next generation of filmmakers,” and taking time as well to praise Maggie Gyllenhaal’s recent release, saying “[she’s] made such a gorgeous film. Cutting edge, I love it”.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, who recently made her directorial debut with Netflix release The Lost Daughter, was presented with the award for Outstanding Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director. The film, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, has also been nominated for three Oscars, including a nomination for Gyllenhaal’s adapted screenplay.
The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary went to veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson for Attica, which dealt with the infamous 1971 prison riot and its revelation of the dire need for US prison reform.
Director Spike Lee was the recipient of the DGA’s highest honour, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Feature Film, given in recognition of a long and impressive career and production of a wide range of feature films, documentaries, music videos, and shorts.
In the category of Movies For Television and Limited Series, the DGA award went to director Barry Jenkins for the ten-part television series, The Underground Railroad, adapted from Colson Whitehead’s brilliant 2016 novel of the same name. Barry Jenkins was previously nominated in 2016 for Moonlight.
In the categories set aside for standard television series, the DGA Awards were presented as follows:
- For direction of a dramatic series, Mark Mylod for the final 2021 episode of the HBO series Succession.
- For a comedy series, well established television director Lucia Aniello for her episode of the series Hacks.
- For direction in the category of variety, talk, news, or sports programming, Don Roy King for his episode of Saturday Night Live. King has already received sixteen DGA Award nominations for his work on SNL and won seven.
- For direction of television specials, Paul Dugdale took the award for the CBS programme Adele: One Night Only.
- For reality programming, Adam Vetri for the Discovery Channel’s driving competition programme Getaway Driver.
- For children’s programming, Smriti Mundhra for Through Our Eyes: Shelter, which deals with housing insecurity through the eyes of young children.