(CNN) - Despite stiff competition in one of the most unpredictable best picture races of recent memory, Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water" took the top prize at Sunday's Academy Awards.
With 13 overall nominations, the endearing, off-beat love story was seen as one of the frontrunners for best picture heading into the night.
In his acceptance speech, director del Toro dedicated the award to young filmmakers.
"This is a door," he said. "Kick it open and come in."
"The Shape of Water" won four awards on Oscar night, including best production design, best original score, and best director.
In accepting his best director statue, del Toro used his time on stage to make a statement about filmmaking.
"I think the greatest thing our industry does is erase the lines in the sand, we should keep doing that as the world tries to make them deeper," he said.
With his win in the best director category, del Toro became the third Mexican-born director to nab the award in five years.
Alfonso Cuarón won best director for "Gravity" in 2014, Alejandro Iñárritu won in both 2015 and 2016 for "Birdman" and "The Revenant," respectively.
Overall, "The Shape of Water" has had an impressive haul this award season.
It won the top prize at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Critics Choice Awards. Director del Toro also picked up a Golden Globe back in January and a BAFTA.
The win indicates that the film, about a mute woman who falls in love with a man-like fish creature, was able to emerge relatively unscathed by controversy stirred by a copyright lawsuit filed late last month.
In addition to best picture, "The Shape of Water" had nominations in the best original screenplay category and in three of the four acting categories.
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