One of the film industry’s oldest unions, the Directors Guild of America, has announced its annual slate of awards nominees, further fueling the landmark Oscar prospects of Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea).
The trio of expected Oscar nominees found themselves joined on the nominations list by a pair of relative surprises: Lion director Garth Davis and Arrival filmmaker Denis Villeneuve.
Davis actually scored two nominations from the DGA on Thursday, landing in the best first feature category alongside Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen), Tim Miller (Deadpool), Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation), and Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane).
Parker’s inclusion among the nominees comes after details about the filmmaker’s 1999 rape trial resurfaced last year, causing controversy around The Birth of a Nation‘s arrival in theaters. Parker was charged with sexually assaulting a fellow student at Penn State in 1999, and acquitted after a trial. (His friend Jean Celestin, who worked on The Birth of a Nation with Parker, was found guilty as part of the same case; his conviction was later overturned.) The alleged victim later died by suicide.
“I do think it’s tragic, so much of what’s happened. And the fact that the family’s had to endure with respect to this woman not being here,” Parker said in an interview with 60 Minutes last year. “But, I also think that — and I don’t want to harp on this and I don’t want to be disrespectful of them at all — but at some point, I have to say it. I was falsely accused. You know, I went to court. And I sat in a trial. You know, I was vindicated. I was proven innocent. And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is, no.”
With over 16,000 members in film, television, and commercial media, the DGA is one of the largest precursor bodies on the Oscar circuit. Since the group’s first awards ceremony, held in 1948, only seven of its winners haven’t repeated at the Oscars. The most glaring discrepancy between the two groups in recent memory occurred in 2013 when Ben Affleck won the DGA’s top prize for his 2012 thriller Argo despite being shut out by the Academy’s directors branch altogether.
The last time the DGA’s crop of nominees completely aligned with AMPAS’ was in 2010 (calendar year 2009), when Kathryn Bigelow won for helming The Hurt Locker; since then, on average, only one DGA nominee per year has failed to show up in the Academy’s corresponding category, with the exception being the DGA’s 2013 class — three of whom (Affleck, Hooper, Kathryn Bigelow) were snubbed by Oscar.
Though most Academy members have likely cast their ballots already (voting officially opened on Jan. 5 and closes Friday), the DGA’s nominations could still influence the race at large, as many DGA members hold crossover membership with the Academy. It’s likely the DGA’s major contenders, who’ve dominated the run-up to the Oscars already (Chazelle, Jenkins, Lonergan), will go on to receive Oscar nominations, while the remaining two slots are, given the general inconsistency of the industry’s nominations outside the three frontrunners, not locked by any means.
Last year, The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu made headlines as the first filmmaker to triumph with the DGA in consecutive years, having previously won in 2015 for directing the 2014 film Birdman — a feat he would go on to repeat at the Oscars shortly thereafter.
The 2017 DGA Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 4 at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.