Steve McQueen insists '12 Years a Slave' is a tale of ''love'' and ''hope''.

The BAFTA Award-winning director's critically acclaimed historical drama based on the real life story of Solomon Northup - a free African-American who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 - is unflinching in its portrayal of the violence and brutality shown towards slaves at the time, but McQueen hopes audiences won't be deterred by the gory scenes.

He explained: ''What I would say is that, for me, this film has always been about love. Through the worst kind of environment, my ancestors and people like me survived and they survived through love. They didn't have much choice. They had to navigate their way through a circumstance in order to bring their children up. Some people were taken away from their parents, some were taken away from their mothers and fathers.

''But in all that chaos, there was a sense of hope and love and that's what Solomon went through for 12 years in his journey. He held on to his sense of love and that sense of hope. That's why I'm sitting here talking to you now, because my family went through that and I'm sitting here so the film is about love, absolutely more than anything else.''

The 'Shame' director also feels it's important for people to ''face'' the past, no matter how difficult it may be.

He added to Entertainment Weekly: ''There haven't been many slavery movies and if we don't face our past, we as a people will never understand what possible future we have. And that's what happens. A lot of people in the film, of course, turn their back on slavery and don't do anything about it. It's about looking and it's about being brave. There's no bravery that needs to happen here by watching a movie, but it's about acknowledging the most important part of American history.''