12 Years a Slave, the epic true story of a free 19th century black man who was kidnapped into servitude in the U.S. South, won the top prize for best film Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards.
The film's director, Steve McQueen, reminded the black-tie audience that in some parts of the world, slavery is not a thing of the past.
"There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here," he said.
The best actor trophy went to British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, for his starring role in 12 Years a Slave.
The lost in space thriller Gravity won six prizes, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron. Gravity also won the best British film prize despite being directed by a Mexican and starring American actors.
Cate Blanchett won the best actress award for her portrayal of a riches-to-rags socialite in the Woody Allen "dramedy" Blue Jasmine.
Newcomer Barkhad Abdo won best supporting actor for his stunning debut as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips, while Jennifer Lawrence took home the best supporting actress prize for her work in the con artist caper American Hustle.
The British prizes, coming two weeks before Hollywood's Academy Awards, are watched as an indicator of likely Oscar success.