Slavery film snares top prize at Toronto

AFP-JIJI

U.K. filmmaker Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” won the audience prize for best picture at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

The film, already generating Oscars buzz, is based on a firsthand account of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, recalling the horrors of grueling labor, daily humiliation and families torn apart.

Its premiere in Toronto last week received a standing ovation as well as sobs. Some in the audience left early over the film’s graphic portrayal of unspeakable torture of slaves during this period in history.

The story is “a gift from the past to open a discussion, not about race, particularly, but about human dignity and our freedoms and what we most require in the world,” said actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Northup. “And the only way to really open that discussion is to see all sides of it.”