By William Wolf


“12 Years a Slave,” directed by Steve McQueen, won the Blackberry People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The prize, carrying a $15,000 cash award, is decided by audiences attending the various films and filling out forms specifying what they thought about films they attended and choosing their favorites. The winning film, based on a true story, recounts the horrors of slavery as depicted in the experience of a free man kidnapped and sold into bondage in the old American South. It is a tough but compelling film to watch as a result of its unflinching portrayal of the slave system’s cruelty.

The runner up in the competition was “Philomena,” directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench as a woman who as a pregnant teenager in Ireland was confined to a Catholic home for wayward girls, where she gave birth. Her son was sold to an American couple and all her life she has wondered what happened to him. A journalist, played by Steve Coogan, launches a search.

Other awards at the 38th annual Toronto Festival (TIFF) included the following:

The City Of Toronto and Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film to Alan Zweig’s “When Jews Were Funny,” for “its deeply moving exploration of memory, identity and community and for its coherent and profoundly humorous representation of the personal as universal,” with a cash prize of $30,000.

Best Canadian First Feature Film to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver’s “Asphalt Watches.” The jury dubbed it a “ferociously and excitingly original animated road trip across Western Canada that is like no other” and called it “breathtakingly inventive.” The prize included a $15,000 cash award.

To Walter Woodman and Patrick Goldberg for “Noah” in the YouTube Award for Best Canadian Short Film competition, with a $10,000 cash prize.

To Sion Sono’s “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” in the BlackBerry People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award competition.

To Jehane Noujaim for “The Square” in the BlackBerry People’s Choice Documentary category.

To Anup Singh’s “Qissa” in the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema for World or International Asian Film Premiere category.

To Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” chosen for the International Critic’s (FIPRESCI) prize for Special Presentations.

To Claudia Sainte-Luce’s “The Amazing Catfish” in the FIPRESCI Discovery Programme competition.


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