ALL CROPS: La La Land (2016) Damien Chazelle directs Emma Stone
Credit: Dale Robinette; Lionsgate

Two years after receiving his first Critics’ Choice Award nomination for writing the Whiplash screenplay, Damien Chazelle has won the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Best Director prize for his work on the crowd-pleasing musical La La Land.

The 31-year-old filmmaker took the BFCA’s accolade at Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, where his film dominated with 12 overall nominations. Chazelle beat out strong competition to win the award, edging out Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins, Arrival‘s Denis Villeneuve, and Manchester by the Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan.

“This is a film about love, I think, more than anything, so I have to thank the love of my life, Olivia Hamilton,” he said before heaping praise upon the film’s cast — namely leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling — and crew.

He continued: “It has occurred to me while sitting here that a lot of us in this room either grew up here in L.A. or came to L.A. to chase a dream, so that was something I really wanted to make the movie about and celebrate dreamers not just here, but everywhere, so I just want to dedicate this to dreamers all over the world.”

La La Land, a contemporary musical set in Hollywood, premiered in August at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, where actress Emma Stone, who plays an entertainment industry hopeful who falls for a struggling pianist (Ryan Gosling), won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. The film itself went on to screen at pre-Oscar festivals like Telluride and TIFF — the latter of which awarded it the prestigious People’s Choice Award, a key Best Picture precursor that has gone to an eventual Academy Award winner (or nominee) in the corresponding Oscar category seven times in the last eight years.

Since 2000, the Critics Choice Award for Best Director has gone to the same year’s Oscar winner 10 times.

“I think Emma and Ryan were the perfect actors for the roles, I think largely because of the worries they were expressing, the fact that they actually paid attention to things like how to bridge tones, how to make sure the characters never got lost in the numbers,” Chazelle previously told EW about working on the film. “It’s what I was hoping for in the whole telling of this story, that it would be a full-fledged musical but it would feel grounded at every moment and totally relatable and relevant. That’s what I needed and that’s what they did.”

La La Land is now playing in theaters. Check out a full list of Critics Choice Award winners here.

La La Land
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