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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Danny Boyle, whose rags-to-riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire" has won over U.S. audiences, was named best director by the Directors Guild of America on Saturday, cementing the movie's position as the Oscar front-runner.
The win put a positive end to a week of controversy for the film that tells of a young Indian boy raised in the slums of Mumbai who goes on to compete for a fortune on a TV talk show and, in the process, also tries to win the girl of his dreams.
"Slumdog" has met with praise in the United States, but in India it has sparked some protests over its depiction of people who live in Indian slums.
This week, the film's makers also came under fire in a British newspaper report claiming they had not properly cared for or paid the children who play the slum dwellers, but Boyle and producer Christian Colson said that report was inaccurate.
On Saturday, controversy seemed far from British director Boyle's mind when he accepted the Directors Guild honor. He talked of achieving dreams and challenged the other film and television makers in the room to press on with work in which they believe.
"If I can get here, you can," he said as he accepted the trophy. "Dream kind and dream hard."
The DGA honor is an indicator of which movie is the front-runner for the best picture Oscar, the world's top film award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In all but six of the award's 61 years, the DGA winner has also won the best director Academy Award, and generally over the history of the Oscars, the winner of best director sees his film go on to claim best movie.
"Slumdog" already has won the best drama Golden Globe Award. It has been honored by the Producers Guild of America as the year's best movie and has seen its actors earn the best ensemble cast from the Screen Actors Guild.
Other DGA film nominees were David Fincher with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Gus Van Sant with "Milk," Christopher Nolan for "The Dark Knight" and Ron Howard with "Frost/Nixon."
The DGA's film documentary directing award went to Ari Folman for war remembrance "Waltz with Bashir."
Elsewhere, the DGA also gave out honors for TV directing. Top winners in that arena were Paul Feig for best comedy director with "The Office" and Dan Attias for best drama director with an episode of "The Wire."
Editing by Doina Chiacu