LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the best director award from the Directors Guild of America on Saturday with her Iraq war thriller "The Hurt Locker," a low-budget film gathering awards steam ahead of the Oscars.
The winner of the Guild's top award has gone on to take the best director Oscar all but six times in the last 61 years.
Oscar nominations will be announced next Tuesday and "The Hurt Locker" is expected to garner several nods, including best film and best director.
Bigelow beat out four other directors, including her former husband James Cameron, who had won the Golden Globe for best director this month for his mega-budget blockbuster "Avatar."
"I am so deeply stunned and honored and proud," Bigelow told the celebrity-heavy crowd of Hollywood directors and actors.
"I think we all felt a really deep responsibility to tell this story with as much honesty as possible, given the courage of the men and women in the field," she added.
"The Hurt Locker" tells the story of a three-man U.S. military bomb squad that defuses explosives amid the fighting and insurgents. Many critics consider the film to be the most accurate portrayal of the Iraq war since it began in 2003.
Bigelow, also a producer of the film, used little known actors and recreated the difficult conditions of Iraq by shooting mostly in the Middle East during the summer.
In the last week, the underdog film was also named best picture by the Producers Guild of America. The winner of that award has gone on to take the best picture Oscar in 13 of the past 20 years, including the two most recent events.
"The Hurt Locker," which is available on DVD after a low-key release in theaters, also won the best picture prize at the Critics Choice Awards.
For the Oscars, the biggest competition for "The Hurt Locker" will likely come from the sci-fi adventure film "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time after it surpassed in the last week Cameron's previous hit, "Titanic."
Bigelow said she was honored to be "in the same conversation with all of you," referring to the four men she beat out. The three other Directors Guild best director nominees were Quentin Tarantino for World War II saga "Inglourious Basterds," Lee Daniels for his drama about a girl in Harlem "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," and Jason Reitman for his film on corporate downsizing "Up in the Air."
But when asked backstage how it felt to be the first woman to win the Directors Guild award, Bigelow played down her gender and said: "I suppose I like to think of myself as a filmmaker."
Editing by Sandra Maler