TORONTO - British filmmaker Steve McQueen said Saturday he hoped his new movie "12 Years a Slave" would open up fresh, frank discussion about the slave trade.
"There's a lot of shame about slavery in America and the West Indies," McQueen told a press conference.
"There's nothing to be forgiven for, it wasn't your fault, this is what happened to you."
The film is based on a firsthand account of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, recalling the horrors of grueling labour, daily humiliation and families torn apart.
Its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival received a standing ovation, as well as sobs, while some in the audience left early over the film's graphic portrayal of unspeakable torture of slaves during this period in history.
McQueen and the cast made no apologies.
The story is "a gift from the past to open a discussion, not about race, particularly, but about human dignity and our freedoms and what we most require in the world," said Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Northup.
"And the only way to really open that discussion is to see all sides of it."