LONDON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Director Steve McQueen has received the British Film Institute's highest honor on the last day of the London Film Festival.
The 12 Years a Slave helmer was presented with the BFI Fellowship by his friend and frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender Saturday during a star-studded gala dinner.
"He's like a very light hippo -- an anomaly," actor said onstage while introducing McQueen The Guardian reported.
"There are only two things I really know," the filmmaker said. "One of them is that I'm black and the other one is that I'm a Londoner. Everything else I don't know. But I know I've had the possibility of exploring and of being reckless and of experimenting because I didn't pay to go to university.
"I had the freedom to experiment and it seems to me that is being slowly eradicated. It is our job in this room to keep these doors open for people who don't have all those chances," he continued.
McQueen attended the event with his producer wife Bianca Stigter. Film stars Alicia Vikander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Anna Friel, Lily James, David Tennant, Kerry Fox, Matthew Macfadyen and Michael Sheen were also in attendance.
Notably, McQueen is the first black director or producer to receive the award.
"It's one of those things where you're just chuffed," the 47-year-old noted to the BBC. "It's a case of just continuing with the work but it's one of those things that give you a little spring in your step, for sure."
Other big winners from the London Film Festival include the award for Best Film for Certain Women directed by Kelly Reichardt and starring Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, and director Julia Ducournau took home the Sutherland Award for Best New Feature for Raw.