12 Years A Slave won the People’s Choice audience award Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The highly anticipated epic, about a man, Solomon Northup born a free Black man in the North, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South in 1841. Based on a true story, the film received rave reviews after its TIFF premiere on Sept. 6, with many declaring it the best film of the year.

“It [12 Years A Slave] evokes the lives of African-American slaves as the nightmare it was, with violence spun into a daily fabric of brutality, one that’s neither heightened nor exaggerated, just scarily real… It is the new movie landmark of cruelty and transcendence,” writes Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.


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Directed by acclaimed British director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), 12 Years A Slave stars frequent McQueen collaborator, Michael Fassbender as a sadistic slave owner and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, along with Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson and Lupita Nyong’o.

“At a festival that has shown so many brilliant films, I cannot be more thrilled to receive this award,” McQueen said in a statement after receiving the People’s Choice.

Previous winners of the TIFF audience award include Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, both of which received a fair share of award recognition. The award all but confirms suspicions that 12 Years A Slave is on a one way train to Oscar.

First runner up for the coveted audience prize was Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen) and staring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and second runner up went to Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve’s thriller/drama staring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Prisoners opens Sept. 20, Philomena is set for limited release Dec. 25, and 12 Years A Slave will be released Oct. 18.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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