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12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, won the BlackBerry People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
The film is based off the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who was sold into slavery in Louisiana. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup alongside Michael Fassbender’s ruthless plantation owner, Edwin Epps.
“I am deeply grateful to all the people who have worked on this film, and that their amazing work has been recognized,” McQueen said in a statement after his win covered by The Hollywood Reporter.
Historically, high honors at Toronto indicate a high number of Oscar nominations. The Guardian calls the film an “unbeatable” contender for Best Picture. There is also Oscar buzz for Ejiofor, Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o. Nyong’o plays another slave who’s beating in one scene caused some audience members to walk out during a screening.
Previous winners of the TIFF’s audience award include Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty, and Silver Linings Playbook. These films have won a combined total of 14 Oscars.
12 Years a Slave opens in theaters Oct. 18.