TAIPEI - Taiwan celebrated Monday after Hou Hsiao-hsien took the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival, with the country's president saying the prize had helped bolster the island's image on the world stage.
Hou's film "The Assassin", a slow-burning drama set in ninth-century China, cost Tw$450 million (S$19.8 million) and took the Taiwanese director 10 years to make.
It sees a trained female killer, played by Taiwanese actress Shu Qi, sent back to her home province to kill its governor - who is also the man she loves.
President Ma Ying-jeou sent his congratulations to Hou after the winners were announced at the French festival Sunday.
"The innovation and its colourful way of telling the story has inspired a new trend in the arts of film and shone in international skies, vying glory for Taiwan," he said.
The award also made headlines in Taiwan's major newspapers and on cable news channels.
The country's culture ministry said that Hou would be awarded Tw$5m to celebrate the feat, praising the movie's newly created martial arts style.
The 68-year-old is one of the biggest names in Taiwan's "New Wave" cinema, having won a string of international film awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for "City of Sadness" in 1989 and the 1993 Cannes Film Festival third-place prize for "The Puppetmaster".
Taiwan is currently recognised by only 22 countries, as China considers the island part of its territory and demands that all diplomatic allies cut off official ties.
But the island's government has tried in recent years to make up for this lack of diplomatic clout by building up soft power, with a number of high-profile films being made in the country.
Hollywood heavyweight Martin Scorsese filmed his forthcoming drama "Silence" on the island, to be released in 2016, while Taiwan-born, US-based director Ang Lee also shot his 2012 Oscar-winning 3D adventure "Life of Pi" in the country.
French director Luc Besson meanwhile filmed some of his 2014 sci-fi thriller "Lucy" in Taipei.