Toronto: '12 Years a Slave' Wins Audience Award

Director Steve McQueen grabs the top prize and a wave out of TIFF to possible awards season success.

TORONTO – 12 Years a Slave was named the top audience prize winner at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

The Steve McQueen-directed film now numbers among previous TIFF audience award winners like American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire and Silver Linings Playbook that received a lift in Toronto on their way to Academy Awards glory.

"At a festival that has shown so many brilliant films, I cannot be more thrilled to receive this award," McQueen said in a statement following news of his award.

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"I am deeply grateful to all the people who have worked on this film, and that their amazing work has been recognized," he added.

The film portrays the 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.

Fox Searchlight will release 12 Years a Slave in theaters on Oct. 18. The film had its world premiere on Sept. 6 at the Princess of Wales Theater, following what was billed as a sneak preview presentation at the Telluride Film Festival.

The first runner-up in the People's Choice Award competition was Stephen FrearsPhilomena, which will be released by The Weinstein Company, while the second runner-up was Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners, from Warner Bros, which stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The People's Choice Midnight Madness award went to director Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?

"This is what we always wanted … I can clearly picture that the film is jumping around and expressing the happiness," Sono said in a statement from Japan.

And the People's Choice documentary award went to Jehane Noujaim's film The Square, which looks at recent unrest in Cairo.

"This is a film about people who relentlessly fight for their rights, even when there is no hope or light at the end of the tunnel," Noujaim said on accepting the award, and giving a shout-out to Egyptian activists in Tahrir Square in Cairo where they are campaigning for democracy and political reforms.

The first runner-up in the People's Choice Midnight Madness award competition was Mike Flanagan's Oculus, while the second runner-up went to Alex de la Iglesia for Witching & Bitching.

In the People's Choice documentary competition, the first runner-up was Canadian director Alanis Obomsawin's Hi-Ho Mistahey! and the second runner-up was Leanne Pooley's Beyond the Edge.

Director Anup Singh's Qissa was honored with the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere.

"Today's my wedding anniversary, and my wife had just tucked away a bottle of champagne into the fridge when I had the phone call from my producer," Singh said in a statement as he accepted the jury award for the best world/international premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema sidebar in Toronto.

The FIPRESCI jury prize for best special presentation sidebar film went to Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida from Poland. The FIPRESCI Discovery award was given to The Amazing Catfish, directed by Claudia Sainte-Luce.

Director Alan Zweig claimed the honor for best Canadian feature film for When Jews Were Funny.

"Honey, I think we'll get a new kitchen," Zweig told his wife from the awards luncheon podium as he accepted the $30,000 prize.

The best Canadian short film prize was awarded to Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg for Noah, and the best Canadian first feature went to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver for Asphalt Watches.

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The Canadian films jury at TIFF, in its citation, recognized Asphalt Watches for an "animated road trip across western Canada that is like no other."

All the Wrong Reasons, which starred the late Glee actor Cory Monteith, was previously announced as the winner of the Discovery award.

The Toronto awards luncheon was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, with festival director Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey presenting the jury and audience awards.

The prize-giving Sunday capped off a 2013 edition of TIFF that included 4,473 industry delegates in town for business, and 1,200 media members to cover red carpet premieres and press conferences by Hollywood stars and other international talent.

A vibrant film market in Toronto this week included U.S. market sales for A Touch of Sin, Bad Words, Bright Days Ahead, Burt's Buzz, Can a Song Save Your Life? and Fading Gigolo, among other titles.