Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang named Asia's filmmaker of the year

Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang was on Sunday hailed as Asian Filmmaker of the Year at the region's most prestigious film festival.

The award was given at a ceremony at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival - held in the South Korean port city of Busan - with organizers lauding Tsai for "improving and developing the Asian film industry and culture".

Tsai said at the event attended by film industry representatives that he had always appreciated the festival's support and hoped he could continue to make "exciting and personal films".

"The Pusan festival has always supported independent cinema and they have always supported me," said the 53-year-old. "So I am honoured and very happy to receive this award and I will do my best to live up to this award."

The Malaysian-born Chinese director has spent most of his career in Taiwan and expressed surprise that the festival had handed him the award when he had not made a film in the past 12 months.

He is currently in Busan scouting for backers for his next project, tentatively titled 'The Diary of a Young Boy.' In keeping with his reputation for producing challenging cinema, he is apparently once again planning to have little dialogue in his next production.

The director has long been a festival favourite. His "Vive L'Amour" picked up the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1994, while both "The River" (1997) and "The Wayward Cloud" (2005) won Silver Bear awards in Berlin.

Tsai has recently branched out into the art world, with one of his modern installations being purchased by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

In previous years the Asian Filmmaker of the Year award has gone to Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Hong Kong actor Andy Lau Tak-wah and prolific Bollywood producer Yash Chopra.

The Busan-based festival continues until Friday, with Oscar-winner Oliver Stone and acclaimed French actress Juliette Binoche among those still to appear before the crowds. The festival features 308 films, of which 103 are world premieres. More than 150,000 people are expected to attend the 10-day event.