SOME walk out, others stay to cheer director Steve McQueen '12 Years a Slave' at prestigious festival.
There was a 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.
"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."
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, and Hunger showing the final days of IRA hunferstriker Bobby Sands, but this time it is likely to be the violence that will attract attention.
The movie is tipped for Oscar glory for Steve McQueen for best director, Ejiofor for best actor, and Fassbender for best supporting actor.
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.
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."