A Powerful and Cunning Black Girl Stands At the Center Of 'Selah and the Spades' [Sundance Review]
High school can be a very polarizing time. It’s comprised of four years that seem to mean everything while you’re in the midst of them, but nothing at all when you’re reflecting on them in your rearview. Cinema has no shortage of high school depictions—specifically when it comes to analyzing the “mean girl” in film. From Carrie to Cruel Intentions — and of course Mean Girls, there have been plenty of depictions of the vicious popular girl, but there has been nothing quite like director Tayarisha Poe’s debut feature, Selah and the Spades.
Set in rural Pennsylvania on the picturesque grounds of the elite Haldwell boarding school, we meet Selah (Greenleaf's Lovie Simone) —a leader of one of the five factions run by members of the student body. Tarit runs The C, a group made of teacher’s pets gone rogue; Amber runs The Skins who deal with anything that can be gambled on --football in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball every spring. The Bobbys are run by Bobby, and they handle all of the illegal parties on campus. Two Tom, the head of the prefects, keeps the administration at bay. Then, there are the Spades, run by Selah and her best friend Maxxi (Moonlight actor- Jharrel Jerome), who deal in the most coveted of vices, illegal alcohol and pills. The number one rule that all of the factions abide by is no snitching.
Since drawing up a peace treaty their sophomore year, the factions have worked harmoniously together, outwitting The Heads (Headmaster Banton is portrayed by Jesse Williams) and essentially keeping order in the school. However, in the Spring semester of their senior year, the faction heads are at each other's throats and Selah and her secrets are at the root of this turmoil.
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