By Joey Nolfi
March 04, 2018 at 11:19 PM EST

The tide of Academy tastes has turned in favor of The Shape of Water.

After steamrolling the precursor circuit with major victories at the Directors Guild of America and the Golden Globes, Guillermo del Toro has won his first Oscar for Best Director at the 90th Academy Awards.

The Mexican filmmaker accepted the honor Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, winning over fellow contenders Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread).

In his acceptance speech, Del Toro expressed his pride in being an immigrant and praised the power of movies to bring people together. “I am an immigrant like Alfonso [Cuarón] and Alejando [G. Iñárritu], my compadres. Like Gael [Garcia Bernal], like Salma [Hayek], and like many, many of you,” he said. “And in the last 25 years, I’ve been living in a country all of our own. Part of it is here, part of it is in Europe, part of it is everywhere. I think the greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.”

Del Toro also thanked studio Fox Searchlight for believing in his “mad pitch” for The Shape of Water, and he concluded by quoting James Cagney: “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my brothers and sisters thank you, and I thank you, very much. Thank you.”

Out of the last five ceremonies, the Academy has awarded the Best Director Oscar to four titles directed by Mexican men; in addition to del Toro’s victory, Cuarón triumphed for 2013’s Gravity before Iñárritu won back-to-back statuettes for 2014’s Birdman and 2015’s The Revenant.

The Shape of Water, a sci-fi/romantic drama fusion about a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a humanoid amphibian in 1960s Baltimore, has won significant praise on the 2017-18 awards trail, earning critical adoration as well as multiple nominations at the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, the British Film and Television Arts Awards, and 13 total Oscar nods.

“It’s a landmark year,” Del Toro previously told EW. “I say this because [Get Out director]Jordan Peele and myself, through different alchemies, have taken the genre and each brought a very different, very personal take. I have always been interested in the dark poetics of the genre. And Jordan has evidently been incredibly compelled to tell the story from a different point of view and has elevated it to a parable of social power that I think is unrivaled.”

He added, “This is the year in which the genre takes its place on the stage without being backed by a bestselling book or a literary classic. Normally when the fantastic is at this stage of the conversion, it is backed up by one of these things. I think it’s beautiful that this has happened.”

For the full list of 2018 Oscar winners, click here.

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