Oscars 2014: ’12 Years a Slave’ Makes History with Best Picture Oscar

The 86th Academy Award was a big night for “12 Years a Slave,” with three wins for Best picture, Best Supporting actress and Adapted screenplay.

The film is based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, a book that fell into obscurity for nearly a century after its initial print run. Photo: rcisidro/ Flickr

The epic drama “12 Years a Slave” won the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday, making history as the first movie from a black director to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years of the Oscars.

Based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, “12 Years a Slave” topped “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” for 2014 Best Picture honors.

Heading into Oscar night, “12 Years a Slave” was tangled in a tight race with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” the two features with the most Oscar nominations, 10 each, at the 2014 ceremony.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” said the British filmmaker. “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery” and to those who still suffer in slavery today. Besides best picture, the film received Oscars for John Ridley for adapted screenplay and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o for supporting actress.

“Every time I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” Nyong’O said between tears.

But the world might never have seen the drama that was nominated in total nine categories, if not for Bianca Stigter, life partner of the film’s director, Steve McQueen. She came across the book while browsing the Internet and urged the filmmaker to take it on as his next project, reports Los Angeles Times.

British director Steve McQueen became the first black director ever to win Best Picture. However, he was beaten to the award for Best Director by Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron; the 52-year-old Mexican is the first Latin American ever to win the latter prize.

Cuaron’s “Gravity” turned out to be the biggest winner of the night with seven Oscars in the basket. The space thriller starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut lost in space swept the technical awards like visual effects and cinematography, a reward for its groundbreaking work on conveying space and weightlessness.

Speaking backstage after the ceremony, Cuaron paid tribute to the film’s British technical team, saying, “The amazing know-how, quality and sophistication of the British film industry made this happen.”

“Dallas Buyers Club” also performed strongly, taking both male acting awards, as well as best hair and makeup. Jared Leto picked up the first award of the evening, for best supporting actor, while Matthew McConaughey was honored with the best actor for his role of an AIDS-afflicted rodeo cowboy.

Australia’s Cate Blanchett won the best actress Oscar for her acclaimed role as the socialite unhinged by her husband’s financial crimes in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

“As random and subjective as this award is, it means a great deal in a year of, yet again, extraordinary performances by women,” said Blanchett, who beat out previous Oscar winners Bullock, Amy Adams, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

The night’s biggest loser was “American Hustle”; David O Russell’s fictionalisation of the 1970s ABSCAM scandal was nominated in 10 categories, but left empty-handed. So too did its fellow Best picture nominees “Nebraska”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Captain Phillips” and “Philomena”.

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