LFF opener Imitation Game wins over Toronto audiences

Benedict Cumberbatch’s starring role as the mathematician Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Enigma code during the Second World War but then led a tragic post-war life tainted by the illegality of his homosexuality, has won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, which is due to open the London Film Festival next month

The director of The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum, said it was “an amazing honour” to win the prize, which – unlike most serious festivals – is chosen by viewers, rather than a panel of industry experts. “For film fans to support The Imitation Game means so much to me, the entire cast and film-making team,” he said. Tyldum had previously described the film as “a tribute to being different.”

Turing was credited as speeding up the allied victory over the Nazis and he’s also seen as the founder of modern computing, but he was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, for which he was chemically castrated, before going on to kill himself.

Despite being voted for by the public, rather than critics or film-makers, some previous winners of Toronto’s People’s Choice award have gone on to win Best Picture Oscars, including The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s 12 Years a Slave. If nothing else, the win will put the well received British feature in a strong position as the awards season approaches.

The runners up prizes went to Sir Ben Kingsley’s romantic comedy Learning to Drive, in which he plays a Sikh taxi driver and driving instructor, and the comedy drama St Vincent, in which Bill Murray stars as a cantankerous war veteran who finds himself having to look after his neighbour’s young son.

The People’s Choice documentary award went to Hajooj Kuka’s Beats of the Antonov, about Sudanese cattle farmers. The runners up awards in the documentary category were David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay? and Ethan Hawke’s musical documentary Seymour: An Introduction.

The third People’s Choice prize in the Midnight Madness programme went to the Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement’s vampire film What We Do in the Shadows. Collecting the award, the writer, director and star of the film said no vampires could attend the ceremony because it took place during the day. Kevin Smith’s horror Tusk and Samuel L Jackson’s Big Game came second and third in the category.