Steve McQueen, the British director who made “12 Years a Slave,” has been named Director of the Year by the Palm Springs International Film Festival, PSIFF organizers announced on Thursday.
“Director Steve McQueen captivates his audiences by challenging them with often unorthodox and unrelenting subject matter and technique,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “McQueen is a master of utilizing the senses to create the essence of his works. In his latest effort, 12 Years a Slave, audiences become integrally involved in the unbearably violent nightmare of a free black man, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, eventually to return home to freedom. To Steve McQueen, a soaring talent who ranks among the greats with each directorial effort, the Palm Springs International Film Festival is proud to present him the 2014 Director of the Year Award.”
Past Director of the Year honorees include Stephen Daldry, Ang Lee, Anthony Minghella, Alexander Payne, Sean Penn, Jason Reitman, David O. Russell and Robert Zemeckis.
12 Years a Slave is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life. The Fox Searchlight Pictures film is directed and produced by Steve McQueen and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alfre Woodard, Chris Chalk, Taran Killam and Bill Camp.
The award will be presented on Jan. 4 at the festival’s annual Awards Gala, a black-tie event used by PSIFF as a fundraiser and by studios as a way to showcase awards contenders just days before Oscar nominating ballots are due.
Other honorees at the event will include Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey.