12 Years a Slave wins top prize at Toronto International Film Festival

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 6:28am

Oscar momentum is building for 12 Years a Slave, the true story of a free black man sold into slavery in 1840s Louisiana, after it won top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, took the BlackBerry People's Choice award for best film.

Based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, the film has won widespread acclaim from critics and audiences and has been touted as a top early contender for Oscars.

The Toronto award has in the past gone to Oscar best picture winners such as The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire.

Last year the award went to multiple winner Silver Linings Playbook, and this is likely to increase the buzz surrounding McQueen's film.

"It was just one of those stories that I felt needed to be told," said McQueen, who like Ejiofor hails from Britain.

"The reason I got into the idea of the free man is that you could identify with him. When he is captured and put into slavery, you go on this journey with him," he added.

Every best picture Academy Award winner since 2007 has played at the 11-day Toronto International Film Festival, which ended on Sunday.

The runner-up for Toronto prize, which is selected by festival audiences, was Stephen Frears' Philomena.

The movie stars Judi Dench as an Irish woman searching for the son she was forced by nuns to give up in the 1950s.