Steve McQueen's brutal scenes divide festival audience

Three Brits are likely to be in the running for Oscars including Ejiofor for best actor and Fassbender for best supporting actor
Three Brits are likely to be in the running for Oscars including Ejiofor for best actor and Fassbender for best supporting actor

A HARROWING depiction of slaves being beaten, tortured and killed that forced some audience members to walk out of the Toronto Film Festival has been defended by a film's Oscar-tipped British star.

Chiwetel Ejiofor said the violent scenes in Steve McQueen's adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir, 12 Years a Slave, were necessary in the bondage tale.

"Solomon's story is full of [violence] but also full of beauty and hope and human respect and dignity," he said. "With Steve there to guide it, we weren't afraid to explore all that, and go to those dark places."

The "dark places" included brutal scenes that saw some members of the audience leave yesterday's screening. There are several realistic scenes of brutal violence, with McQueen paying particular attention to the scarring of the victims.

Ejiofor, who plays Northup - a free musician living in Saratoga, New York, who is kidnapped by supposed circus owners in Washington DC and sold into slavery in the South - is seen in one early scene being beaten 15 times with a bat and then whipped 14 times by his kidnappers.

McQueen does not shy away from showing slaves being hanged and killed, and in one particularly harrowing 10-minute scene, a plantation owner Epps, played by Michael Fassbender, strings a slave to a post before ordering her beating. She is shown being whipped 41 times.

McQueen's previous film Shame depicted a sex addict, but this time it is likely to be the violence that will attract attention.

McQueen is particularly effective in showing the impossibility of escape for the slaves in the film based on Northup's 1853 memoir. Northup is given the slave name Platt and told by fellow slaves not to reveal that he can read or write, or say that he can prove he is a free man, as this would result in certain death. The potential for brutal violence is overwhelming. Many beatings occur off-camera, but when McQueen does show brutality on-screen little is left to the imagination. These scenes may test the British censors, although given the story that is being told, it is likely no cuts will be ordered.

There was a deserved 10-minute standing ovation for the film at the festival with many in the audience in tears. Critics are already comparing 12 Years a Slave to Schindler's List. And the film is being touted as the frontrunner for next year's Oscars with a Best Picture nomination seemingly guaranteed.

Three Brits are likely to be in the running for individual prizes. Steve McQueen for best director, Ejiofor for best actor, and Fassbender for best supporting actor. In the film, Ejiofor delivers a performance comparable to his multi-award winning turn as Othello at the Donmar theatre in 2007.

McQueen and his impressive cast - which also includes Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt and the Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o - took the stage after the credits rolled at its official world premiere to answer questions.

McQueen told the audience he wanted to adapt Northup's story as he felt the harsh realities of slavery had too rarely been depicted on the big screen. "I wanted to see that story on film," said the London-born filmmaker. "It's that simple."

Pitt, who also served as producer, said: "Steve was the first to ask why there have not been more films on the US history of slavery. It's a question it took a Brit to ask."

Lost men will be remembered with a bell

ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Cheryl Roberts, Melissa Henderson, Brieana Andersen, Michael Schofield and Lyn Chivers at the memorial ceremony for Matthew Roberts and David Chivers who were tragically lost at sea on April 4, 2016.

Lost fishermen will not be forgotten

Violence 'out of control': call for curfew in Bundaberg

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Trevor and Kerry Wone and Mellita (inset) and Ken Phillis want the community to work together to reduce violence by youths in Bundaberg.

"It's terrorism on the streets of Bundaberg"

Local Partners

Watch out for river work if you are on the Burnett

BOATIES using the reaches of the Burnett River near Strathdee's boat ramp may notice a barge undertaking work

Men's Shed to open soon

MEN'S SHED: Rob Miller and Col Driver at the new Gayndah Men's Shed.

The Gayndah Men's Shed is ready to open

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

Workshops to show you how to bring puppets to life

STRING SECTION: Two puppet-making workshops will be held in the region.

Ever wanted to know how to make puppets?

Ruby Mills misses out on spot in Mel B's underdog team

Bundaberg singer Ruby Mills pictured during the three-seat challenge on The X Factor.

BUNDABERG singer officially out of contention for singing show.

Top floor teams take out The Block's terrace week

Kim and Chris pictured on their winning outdoor terrace in a scene from The Block.

RIVALS Kim and Chris and Julia and Sasha tie in final week of work.

Bob Dylan slammed as 'arrogant' for Nobel silence

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

Singer the controversial winner of literature Nobel

Shannen Doherty reveals fear of dying in post on chemo

Actor Shannen Doherty shared this image of her lying in a hospital bed after a chemotherapy session.

Actor has been fighting cancer since 2015

Eddie Redmayne's stage fright on latest Harry Potter film

Actor Eddie Redmayne stars in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Actor felt like kid again when he got to film with a wand

Salma Hayek: 'Trump planted story because I turned him down'

Actor Salma Hayek is the latest woman who says U.S presidential nominee Donald Trump acted inappropriately.

Salma Hayek latest woman to accuse Trump of misconduct

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

What our mayor thinks of the new draft SEQPlan

The plan to use the innovative technology as part of the new Maroochydore CBD was cemented on site today when Mayor Mark Jamieson and Envac Asia Region president Chun Yong Ha formally signed the contract for the $20 million underground waste collection system.

New plan accommodates Sunshine Coast Council's vision for growth.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track