TORONTO - Hear that? It's the sound of 12 Years a Slave gaining momentum.
The film, an immersive story rooted in slavery in the 1840s, earned a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday night, following a buzzy debut at the Telluride fest last week.
Slave, out in limited release Oct. 18, is based on the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1841 who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Solomon, an educated, well-traveled violinist with a family in New York, slowly descends into a dehumanized hell with no discernible exit. The story is based on an autobiography Northup published after his rescue.
As credits rolled on Friday night, the audience applauded loudly.
When the lights came on, the cast took the stage for a brief Q&A session.
Director Steve McQueen "was the first to ask the big question: Why aren't there more films about American slavery? It took a Brit to ask," said producer Brad Pitt (who cameos).
"It was very intense to go to these places," said Ejiofor from the stage. "Solomon's story ... was full of beauty and hope, the hope of human respect and human dignity."
McQueen said the reason he took on the project was simple: "It was important. And that was it."