A Canadian is key to one of TIFF's hottest tickets this year: the searing drama 12 Years a Slave, which recounts the tale of a free-born African American kidnapped and sold into slavery ahead of the U.S. Civil War.

Premiering at TIFF Friday night, the Steve McQueen film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, who penned a memoir about the dozen years he spent enslaved on Louisiana plantations.

Later an active abolitionist and organizer on the Underground Railroad, he noted in his book that his freedom was due in large part to a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass, who risked his own life to help Northup. Hollywood heavyweight Brad Pitt, a producer of 12 Years a Slave, portrays Bass. 

Still, the Canadian connection to Northup's story was little known, even to Bass' own descendants in Ontario.

In the attached video, CBC's Deana Sumanac delves into the story and reveals to Bass' heirs the tale of their heroic forefather.

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 15.