Steve McQueen’s epic biopic of Solomon Northup took the top prize at this year’s British Academy Film and Television Arts award ceremony Sunday when 12 Years a Slave won for Best Film and Leading Actor. The recognitions mark yet another high-profile win for the film that took home the Golden Globe for Best Drama and is considered a front-runner for an Academy Award.
The BAFTA, sometimes called “the British Oscars,” is one of the most prestigious awards in the industry.
In his acceptance speech, McQueen said after he read the book he knew he had to tell Northup’s story.
“As soon as I had the book in my hand it was a revelation. Every page was a revelation,” he said. “We can put it back in its rightful spot. Everyone in the world now knows who Solomon Northup is.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor thanked his fellow Londoner in his acceptance speech for Leading Actor.
“You really brought us all through it,” Ejiofor told McQueen. “You had the real vision to tell this remarkable story. The extraordinary life that he had, and to tell this story in a way to make it of such value, of such worth to all who were there. Thank you for this, it was yours. I’m going to keep it, but it’s yours.”
Somali-American actor Barkhad Abdi bested Bradley Cooper, Daniel Bruhl, Matt Damon and Michael Fassbender to take home the trophy for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Captain Phillips. Abdi, a former limo driver and DJ in Minnesota, thanked director Paul Greengrass “for believing in me before I believed in myself” and told his fellow cast mates, “We came from nothing and we have this.”
The night’s other top winners included Gravity, which won 6 awards; American Hustle, which grabbed three nods, including Best Supporting Actress for Jenifer Lawrence; and the Great Gatsby, which garnered two wins for Production Design and Costume Design.