Some fresh new talents graduate with high honor.
“Selah and The Spades” is the film debut for writer/director Tayarisha Poe, who delivers an unusual, but passionate coming-of-age story about a boarding school and its different factions, while focusing on just one of the leaders. The main faction in the movie is known as “The Spades,” which provides the drugs and alcohol for students. It also introduces us to the leader Selah (Lovie Simone), who must find herself a replacement when she graduates, while trying to keep the other factions in line.
They would also feature the Sea, led by Tarit (Henry Hunter Hall from “Harriet” and Amazon Prime’s “Hunters”), which which features teacher’s pets who sell school assignment loopholes to other students; the Skins, led by Amber (Francesca Noel), which gamble on sporting events; the Bobbys, led by Bobby (Ana Mulvoy Ten), which hosts illegal parties in dorm basements; and the Prefects, led by Two Tom (Evan Roe from “Madame Secretary”), which keeps the administration unaware of the student body’s activities.
In her faction, she gains a new friend-a photographer and new student named Paloma (Celeste O’Connor)-and questions her trust in her assistant Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome from “Moonlight”), who may or may not be a rat. She trains her new apprentice to become the new leader, while explaining to her the rules of power and order, even if sometimes it means abuse.
As an artisan African-American film, made for release on Amazon Prime’s streaming service, “Selah and The Spades” is open-minded in the tradition of “Dear White People,” “Moonlight,” and “Waves;” and introduces us to some fresh, new talents. What a great time to meet new people, am I right?
You can start with Poe who writes and guides such interesting characters who express their views of life inside the school about differences and the frivolities they engage in. Granted they can be a little vague at times, but you’re still able to grasp their realities. You can also add the leads, Simone and O’Connor, in the mix for their unique abilities to ease into their characters and deliver their poetries. We’re sure to see them again in the future. Maybe not together, but in other projects, when they’re allowed to expand their horizons. And Jerome amazes us with his feelings and ambitions.
There’s also a saying that action speaks louder than words. For example: a scene I found most dazzling is when the seniors play an annual prank on their headmaster (Jesse Williams from “Grey’s Anatomy”) by putting cups of water with yellow, green, blue, and purple food coloring in them, and on the stairs. It may aggravate him, but I love the way they’re organized and photographed with the right lighting tools.
Students in the next generation have either homeschooling or online courses, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, so they have to miss out on Prom. But they should really see the colors inside “Selah and The Spades” to acknowledge the world the youngsters live in, and how they keep their members in tact. They have ways we may or may not agree on, and yet, we do see them as interesting people.
Available for Streaming on Amazon Prime