I am thrilled to announce that Tayarisha Poe's feature film, "Selah and the Spades," will be debuting tomorrow, April 17th, on Amazon Prime (you can find the film here). It is the first narrative feature for which I have served as one of several Executive Producers, and I was so proud to see the acclaim that it received upon premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Lauren McBride is a producer, and Ebert Fellow, Jomo Fray, is the cinematographer, and it was so exciting to watch the process as they brought their first feature to completion. IndieWire called it one of the 8 Gems to see at BAM CinemaFest, and Harper's Bazaar hailed it as one of the best films this year built around a female nonconformist.
Lovie Simone earned raves for her lead role as Selah Summers, a steely and ambitious teenage girl at a prestigious Pennsylvania boarding school, as is the supporting performance of "Moonlight"'s Jharrel Jerome, who received an Emmy Award for his riveting work in Ava DuVernay's Netflix miniseries, "When They See Us." “The ‘Lord of the Flies’-esque drama captures the struggles of a teenage girl threatened by the loss of a power she once wielded (and was intoxicated by),” writes Indiewire's Tambay Obenson. “It’s a biting character study that ultimately brings the trivialities of being human to the fore. Specifically, its unspoken aim is to normalize the mundanity of black life, and newcomer Simone’s performance wonderfully embodies all of Selah’s complexities.”
According to Candice Frederick at Harper’s Bazaar, Selah “isn’t so much straddling identities as she is flouting the very concept of the binary notions that so often attempt to harnass women. […] Selah isn’t exactly sexually promiscuous (she’s never had sex), but she's quick to say that she's in full command of her body, refusing to submit to the male-inflicted stereotypes of Madonna and whore. She freely struts around in a pleated cheerleader skirt and fitted crop top, embodying a sense of power and brazen femininity that both captivates and intimidates. Selah is a defiant contradiction of assumptions placed on women, and that's what makes her story—as well as Hala’s, Billi’s, and Molly’s—so provocative. These women are living on their own terms, annihilating expectations, and forming their own resistance in a world that is hell-bent on catering to standards set by men. It’s 2019, after all, and this is the mood we need to take into the rest of the year and beyond. Let's go.”
Upon its premiere at Sundance, "Selah" was named one of the 20 best films at Sundance by The Hollywood Reporter, with its critic Beandra July writing that it "signals a bright future for a promising young filmmaker." Variety's Amy Nicholson wrote that Poe's "cold and stylish debut commands attention," while Shadow and Act's Aramide A. Tinubu noted that the film is an "earnest celebration of youth and power —something long-reserved for white teens while excluding young people of color." Out's Joi Childs said the film is "a joy to watch," Film Threat's Bradley Gibson raved that Poe has "mastered a Shakespearean approach to drama" and The Moveable Fest's Stephen Saito assured that the film won't be leaving viewer's minds "anytime soon."
I am so happy that this film will be able to keep viewers entertained while in quarantine (I imagine it will provoke quite a few discussions via Zoom as well.). Kudos to you Tayarisha and the whole gang!
"Selah and The Spades" will be available to stream tomorrow on Amazon Prime Video.
Header photo caption: Lovie Simone stars in "Selah and The Spades." Courtesy of Amazon Studios.