’12 Years a Slave’ Wins People’s Choice Award at 2013 Toronto Film Festival

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12 Years a Slave wins Toronto Audience AwardFox Searchlight smartly screened Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years a Slave in New York following its premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and now the love for the film continues as it has just been awarded the People’s Choice Audience Award at the fest. In recent history the award has gone to eventual Best Picture winners The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire as well as Silver Linings Playbook last year, which eventually went on to earn eight nominations and one win for Jennifer Lawrence.

Runners up were Stephen FrearsPhilomena (read my “A” review) and Denis Villeneuve‘s Prisoners (read my “B+” review).

Of course, 2013 is an interesting year in movies as we have so many films yet to be seen so to say the race is over at this point would be silly with the likes of Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, David O. Russell‘s American Hustle and George Clooney‘s Monuments Men still to be seen among many others.

This, however, is a great start for a great film and the only film from the Toronto Festival I gave an “A+”. Here’s a snippet from my review:

Director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), and his unflinching cinematic eye, delivers a film filled with shame, guilt, hatred, anger, rage, torture, anguish and tears. It rips your heart out of your chest and holds it before your very eyes. It’s a painful watch and one I won’t likely run to visit again, but this doesn’t detract from its quality. Thanks to those few seconds where our eyes lock with Northup’s, it makes for a moment where the entire audience is forced to reflect on what they’ve seen and interpret it in their own way. It’s a look that asks you to see Solomon not as a black man, but as a free man, no different than any of us, and it isn’t the first time the idea is addressed in the film, but it is the first time the onus is placed 100% on the audience and it’s a stroke of genius.

Yet, what must absolutely be mentioned and reiterated is the absolute horror this movie is to watch. A scene involving a hanging leaves a man dangling, with only the tips of his toes negotiating the muddy ground below serving as the difference between life and possible death. Choking and gasping for air, the soft squish of the wet mud is like needles in your ears. McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt first focus on his feet, then move to a wide shot as fellow slaves in the background get back to work, leaving the man to hang, afraid to interfere. A couple white people stare from the plantation windows and porch, the whole time the wet squish beneath the man’s feet continues as he chokes for a sliver of air. The scene goes on, and on, and on.

You can read my full review right here and I will be recapping all of my reviews from the festival tomorrow morning.

12 Years a Slave hits theaters on October 18.