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