By Jeffrey Hodgson
TORONTO (Reuters) - "Room", an adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel about a mother and child held captive for years, won top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
The People's Choice Award, chosen by the votes of audience members, has in the past gone to Oscar winners such as "Slumdog Millionaire," "The King's Speech" and "12 Years a Slave." Last year, it was won by Best Picture nominee "The Imitation Game."
"Room" was based on the 2010 novel written by Irish-born author Emma Donoghue, who now lives in Canada.
The novel and film bear similarity to the real-life case of Austria's Elisabeth Fritzl, who was held captive for years in a concealed part of her father's home and gave birth to his children after suffering sexual abuse.
"Room" tells the story of a boy named Jack, who has only ever know the space he and his mother have been confined in, and the further challenges they face after emerging into the outside world.
Director Lenny Abrahamson, who did not attend the awards ceremony, issued a statement in which he thanked Donoghue, "whose beautiful novel started everything."
Other award winners included "Desierto", a thriller starring Gael García Bernal about a group of would-be immigrants from Mexico to the United States who find themselves hunted by a deranged vigilante.
It won a prize from the International Federation of Film Critics for movies in the festival's special presentations program.
García Bernal, who accepted the award, said the issue of migration is very pertinent given the "discourse of hatred" being heard in the political world. He said the movie was dedicated to people who migrate "not because they choose to, but because they need to."
The People's Choice Award for top documentary went to "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight For Freedom," which will appear on Netflix next month.
The People's Choice Award for top film in the Midnight Madness program, which often showcases horror and offbeat films, went to "Hardcore" by Russian director Ilya Naishuller.
The action-adventure movie, about a cyborg hunting for his past, was entirely shot from the first-person perspective.
Now in its 40th year, the Toronto festival often serves as a launch pad for films and performances that go on to win Academy Awards, as well as international movies seeking distribution deals.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)