12 Years a Slave Takes TIFF’s Top Honor and People’s Choice Award

Posted by at 10:28 am on September 16, 2013

oscarwarriorsept2Steve McQueen’s acclaimed slavery drama 12 Years a Slave won  Toronto International Film Festival’s top honor, the Blackberry People’s Choice Award.

After an early preview screening at the Telluride Film Festival, McQueen’s third film, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup as a free black man who is tricked into becoming a slave, had its world premiere at TIFF where it received almost unanimous critical acclaim and a standing ovation at its premiere. Besides receiving accolades for Ejiofor’s performance, which is likely to get him an Oscar nomination, attention has also been given to performances by Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.

Previous winners in the category include Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, both which went on to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ top honor for Best Picture, while last year’s Audience Award winner, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook received multiple Oscar nominations with Jennifer Lawrence winning for her performance.

Runners up in the important category were Stephen Frears’ Philomena, starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

You can read the full list of winners in all categories below:

Toronto – The 38th Toronto International Film Festival® today announced its award recipients at a reception at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto.

The winner of the YouTube Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg for Noah. The jury, comprised of writer Rafael Katigbak, writer, director Nathan Morlando and documentary filmmaker Nisha Pahuja, remarked: “This film is a commentary on the ephemeral, disposable, A.D.D. culture that many of us are consumed by and living in. It tells us a story in a way we’ve never seen before and it tells it well. It’s fresh, innovative, and had the remarkable ability to embody complex emotion through the simple gesture of a mouse.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize. Honourable mentions go to Kevan Funke’s Yellowhead, and Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone’s The Chaperone 3D.

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Liz Czach, author, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta and a former Festival programmer of Canadian film; Laurence Kardish, film historian, author and Senior Curator Emeritus of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Martin Katz, feature film producer and founder of Prospero Films; and award-winning director, writer and actor Jacob Tierney.

The City of Toronto + Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Alan Zweig’s When Jews Were Funny. The jury remarked: “For its deeply moving exploration of memory, identity and community and for its coherent and profoundly humourous representation of the personal as universal, the Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Alan Zweig’s documentary When Jews Were Funny.” This award is made possible thanks to the City of Toronto and Canada Goose and comes with a cash prize of $30,000.

“For three generations of extraordinary, honest and courageous performances in Peter Stebbing’s Empire of Dirt, the jury presents a special citation to Jennifer Podemski, Cara Gee and Shay Eyre.”

The Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver’s Asphalt Watches. The jury remarked: “For its ferociously audacious and excitingly original animated road trip across Western Canada that is like no other, the jury recognizes as Best Canadian First Feature Film the breathtakingly inventive Asphalt Watches.” The award carries a prize of $15,000.

“For its technical mastery, polish, sense of fun and ability to scare the pants off us, the jury gives an honourable mention to Afflicted.”


The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 22nd consecutive year. The jury members consist of jury president John Anderson (United States), Robenson Eksiel (Greece), Leslie James (Canada), Namrata Joshi (India), Michael Ranze (Germany) and André Roy (Canada).

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida. The jury remarked: “The prize is awarded to Ida for a layered and humane exploration of issues of religious and personal identity. With its very original, austere yet poetic imagery it brings alive the gravity and grimness of history.”

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Claudia Sainte-Luce for The Amazing Catfish. The jury remarked: “Claudia Sainte-Luce shows a precocious, playful and poignant grasp of the fluid nature of family and the capability of the human heart under the most dire conditions for generosity, empathy and tenderness, in her vibrant debut The Amazing Catfish.”

This year marked the 36th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film, with the BlackBerry® People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave. The film tells the incredible true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and finally freed in 1853. The story is a triumphant tale of one man’s courage and perseverance to reunite with his family that serves as an important historical and cultural marker in American history. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by BlackBerry. The first runner up is Stephen Frears’ Philomena. The second runner up is Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners.

The Festival presents a free screening of the award-winning film 12 Years a Slave tonight. The screening takes place at 6 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 4 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre.

The BlackBerry People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de Naze Warui). The film follows two men, Muto and Ikegami, who hate each other. Muto desperately wants to help his daughter Mitsuko star in a movie. Meanwhile, Ikegami falls in love with Mitsuko, knowing that she’s the daughter of his foe. Hirata, a filmmaker, and Koji, a young movie-lover, get dragged into this complicated situation that heads into an unexpected direction. First runner up is Mike Flanagan for OCULUS and the second runner up is Álex de la Iglesia for Witching & Bitching.

The BlackBerry People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Jehane Noujaim for The Square. The story of revolution behind the headlines. From the 2011 overthrow of a 30-year dictator, through military rule, and culminating with the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president in the summer of 2013. First runner up is Alanis Obomsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey! and the second runner up is Leanne Pooley’s Beyond the Edge.

As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Anup Singh’s Qissa. Jury members include Jay Jeon (Korea), Intishal Al Timimi (Abu Dhabi) and Freddie Wong (Hong Kong). The jury remarked: “The NETPAC Award for the best Asian film at Festival 2013 goes to Qissa, directed by Anup Singh, for its sensitive portrayal of the issues of identity and displacement that affect people not only in India, but in all parts of the world and for brilliance of cinematic craft and the choice of metaphor that has been employed to tell a moving story that is bound to provoke thoughts, spark debate and give its viewers an intense experience.”

Earlier in the Festival, the winner of the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award was announced. The award went to Gia Milani whose film, All the Wrong Reasons, was presented as part of the Discovery programme. Milani was presented with the award which includes a $10,000 cash prize to put toward her next project.

Also earlier in the Festival, the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition concluded with Christoph Rainer’s Requiem for a Robot winning the $20,000 grand prize. Honourable mentions go to Dan Popa for Tales of Santa Fe and Kevan Funk for Destroyer. Each claimed a $5,000 prize. The films were reviewed by an esteemed panel of producers, directors and executives.

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