Chinese actress Zhao Tao won the best actress prize Friday at Italy's David di Donatello 2012 Awards for her leading role in the movie "Io sono Li"(I am Li).
This was the first time ever that the prestigious Italian award was given to a Chinese national.
"The movie was a perfect example of joint cinematic efforts by Italians and Chinese," Zhao said when she was announced the winner, out of five actresses nominated for the award.
A co-production by Italy and France and directed by the Italian Andrea Segre, "Io sono Li" is a love story between a Chinese immigrant who works as a barmaid in the Venice lagoon town of Chioggia, and a local fisherman nicknamed "The Poet."
"I think the movie has succeed in showing how people from two different cultures learn from each other at a profound level," Zhao told Xinhua.
In fact, promoting understanding between different cultures was Segre's aim all along, and the director said he has learned a lot about Chinese culture while making the movie.
"I think cinema must have the honor and duty to describe the situation of our country, and immigration is an important phenomenon marking a big change in Italy," he told Xinhua.
"In recent years, large numbers of immigrants have entered Italy, and now people with a variety of different cultural backgrounds live together here," Segre said.
While working on the movie, Segre realized that Italy's Chinese communities are much more eager to understand local society than the media claims, the director said. He also said that telling the personal stories of immigrants lets others better understand their feelings.
In 2011, "Io sono Li" was screened in the Venice Days section of the 68th Venice International Film Festival.
The fact that an European award was granted for the first time to an Asian actress showed Zhao's "increasingly outstanding artistic level," Marco Muller, artistic director of the Venice Film Festival, told Xinhua.
Born in Taiyuan, the capital of China's Shanxi province, Zhao studied classical Chinese dance when she was a child. In 1996, she enrolled in the folk dance department at Beijing Dance Academy.
The annual David di Donatello Awards, first given in Rome in 1955, honor the best Italian and foreign films.