12 Years a Slave gets pre-Oscar boost at Critics' Circle Awards

Steve McQueen: "The film creates such interesting, stimulating debate... it's been a privilege"

12 Years a Slave has received a pre-Oscars boost by winning the most prizes at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards in London.

It was named film of the year, while Chiwetel Ejiofor won actor of the year, and co-star Lupita Nyong'o won best supporting actress.

British director Steve McQueen said he had "felt so much love for this film in this country".

The awards took place exactly four weeks before the Oscars in Hollywood.

12 Years a Slave is considered the front-runner for best picture, and it has nine nominations in total, including McQueen for best director.

It also has 10 nominations for the Bafta Film Awards, two weeks away on 16 February.

The London Critics' Circle ceremony, at London's May Fair Hotel on Sunday, began on a sombre note as news broke of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's death in New York.

When film critic Jason Solomons opened the awards by paying tribute to the late actor and director, guests stood in spontaneous appreciation.

Hoffman won a best supporting actor award at last year's event for his performance as a cult leader in The Master.

Among the stars on the red carpet were Steve Coogan, Naomie Harris, Andy Serkis, John Hurt and Gary Oldman - who was honoured with the Dilys Powell award for excellence in film.

Gary Oldman: "I think anyone that says they don't read reviews is telling lies"

Oldman, who was introduced by John Hurt, was modest about the award backstage. "I've had my fair share of luck. I'm sure there's a bus driver out there or a shop assistant who's the greatest actor in the world."

Picking up the top award for 12 Years a Slave, McQueen noted the "tremendous response" his film had received.

"It got people to the cinema," said McQueen. "What's so interesting about the response from critics and audiences is that they want to see films which have some difficulties.

"They are interested in films where they have to work. They are interested the films where they see themselves reflected in the cinema screens.

"I have people in the street - builders, bus drivers - being so supportive to the movie. I've felt so much love for this film in this country and I'm so humbled and heart-warmed that it's from my own country."

Cate Blanchett was named actress of the year for her performance in Blue Jasmine and Dame Judi Dench won British actress of the year.

In a video message from the set of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 in India, Dame Judi said: "I'm thrilled. Making Philomena was a wonderful experience, not least getting to meet Philomena herself."

Alfonso Cuaron was named director of the year for his 3D space thriller, Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The film also took the best technical achievement award.

Clio Barnard's low-budget drama The Selfish Giant, a contemporary English fable about two excluded schoolboys who start working for a dodgy local scrap dealer, was named British film of the year.

Conner Chapman, the teenage star of The Selfish Giant who was plucked from obscurity from his school in Bradford, was named young British performer of the year.

"I can't believe I'm up here," he said as he collected his award on stage. "I only auditioned to get out of lessons."

The winners in full:

Film of the Year

12 Years a Slave

Foreign-language Film of the Year

Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Documentary of the Year

The Act of Killing

British Film of the Year

The Selfish Giant

Director of the Year

Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity

Screenwriter of the Year

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis

Actor of the Year

Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave

Actress of the Year

Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor of the Year

Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips

Supporting Actress of the Year

Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave

British Actor of the Year

James McAvoy - Filth / Trance / Welcome to the Punch

British Actress of the Year

Judi Dench - Philomena

Young British Performer of the Year

Conner Chapman - The Selfish Giant

Breakthrough British Filmmaker

Jon S Baird - Filth

Technical Achievement Award

Gravity - Tim Webber, special effects

Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Film

Gary Oldman

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