Director Steve McQueen during the press conference for "12 Years a Slave" at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto.
TORONTO — 12 Years a Slave has won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, building Oscar momentum for Steve McQueen’s unblinking portrait of slavery in 1840s America.
McQueen’s film beat out first runner-up Philomena, directed by fellow Brit Stephen Frears, and second runner-up Prisoners, directed by Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve.
Following the announcement Sunday, festival head Piers Handling suggested this was the beginning of many prestigious accolades for the sweeping drama.
The King’s Speech, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, and Slumdog Millionaire all went on to multiple Academy Award nominations and wins after being crowned most popular in Toronto.
Every best picture winner since 2007 has played at the 11-day Toronto International Film Festival, which wrapped up Sunday.