Leading commentators in Bristol have backed calls to confront the city's past and its historic links to the slave trade.
British-born Chiwetel Ejiofor is thought to be favourite to land the Oscar thanks to his role in the uncompromising and highly praised 12 Years A Slave.
The film, which takes an unflinching look at the brutal world of plantations in America in the 1840s, has been tipped to sweep the board at the Oscars after winning over critics and audiences in the US.
And Ejiofor, who plays the pivotal role in the film, believes that the whole issue of slavery needs to be addressed in the UK.
He claims that people in the UK have a "reflex fear" when it comes to slavery and are afraid of talking about the issue and the impact the trade had on the country.
He said: "There is this reflex fear that once you expose something, once you talk about it, you are really talking about your society.
"That is why we don't really investigate what Bristol or London or Bath would be without the slave trade.
"Because we really like those cities and the people who live there it is easier to close the door on it and let it go."
The 36-year-old London actor added: "I want the book that the film is based on to be taught in every school because it speaks to human respect.
"No one is ever too young to start understanding what that means or where prejudice has led the human race in our history. And could again, very easily."
He added: "People have a fear of questioning societies to which they owe their whole system of reality.
"Not just in the States, but wherever slavery was a prevalent part of the culture and wealth of the culture, and whatever countries still have benefits of that today."
The film's director Steve McQueen believes 12 Years A Slave should become standard reading in schools.
He said: "This subject should be on the national curriculum, its a no-brainer."
Between 1730 and 1745 Bristol was the world's leading slave port and the city's wealth is largely built on the trade.
An estimated 500,000 Africans were carried into slavery in ships which sailed from Bristol. The city's mayor George Ferguson believes the issue should be tackled. He said: "Bristol will always hang its head with shame over its history of slavery.
"Our answer must be to celebrate our diversity in the 21st Century, remain vigilant, abhor all discrimination and strive to become the most tolerant city in the UK."
Community leader Abdul Malik added: "The lessons that the events that took place on our soil 300 years ago and the years of struggle for rights that followed, are vital for our future generations, not only to highlight the events and reflect on them but to draw from the experiences of the past and build on them a better future.
"The slave trade and its history in Bristol, is a bitter truth of the past, but is also a unique opportunity for our city and its future, to provide a unique insight into the history and provide physical educational resources in sights and venues for a future in a city now known for its beacon status in equalities."