Amazon Prime Video has brought online the first clip from Selah and The Spades, writer/director Tayarisha Poe’s first feature film. Coming to the streaming service on April 17, the film stars Lovie Simone, Celeste O’Connor, Jharrel Jerome, Gina Torres, Jesse Williams, Henry Hunter Hall and Evan Roe.
The R-rated film is set in the closed world of an elite Pennsylvania boarding school, Haldwell, where the student body is run by five factions. 17-year-old Selah Summers (Lovie Simone) runs the most dominant group, the Spades, with unshakable poise, as they cater to the most classic of vices and supply students with coveted, illegal alcohol and pills.
Tensions between the factions escalate, and when Selah’s best friend/right hand Maxxie (Moonlight’s Jharrel Jerome) becomes distracted by a new love, Selah takes on a protégée, enamored sophomore Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), to whom she imparts her wisdom on ruling the school.
But with graduation looming and Paloma proving an impressively quick study, Selah’s fears turn sinister as she grapples with losing the control by which she defines herself.
In her feature debut, writer/director Tayarisha Poe immerses us in a heightened depiction of teenage politics. This searing character study encapsulates just how intoxicating power can be for a teenage girl who acutely feels the threat of being denied it.
The movie was produced by Lauren McBride, Secret Engine’s Lucas Joaquin and Drew Houpt and Argent Pictures’ Jill Ahrens. Executive producers include Argent partners Ryan Ahrens, Ben Renzo, Drew Brees, Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Derrick Brooks, Terence Nance, Jenifer Westphal, Cinereach, Julie Parker Benello, Nancy Stephens Rosenthal, Chaz Ebert and Alex Scharfman. Stephanie DeVaan, David Chan, Kenneth and Elizabeth Whitney and Gottfried and Janet Tittiger are serving as co-executive producers.
Selah and The Spades world premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and screened at BAMcinemaFest.
Amazon Studios is developing an original series based off the teen drama as well. Poe will write, direct and produce the original series, along with Lauren McBride who also produced the film.
Matt Newman, Co-Head of Movies at Amazon Studios said previously, “Selah and The Spades is a fun and addictive story that immediately draws you in. I’m so excited to bring filmmaker Tayarisha Poe into the Amazon Studios family – she has such a unique and beautiful style of storytelling that young audiences everywhere will fall in love with, just as we have.”
“I’m thrilled that Selah and The Spades has found a home with Amazon Studios, and doubly excited to see the world of The Haldwell School expand and develop in the serial format,” said Poe. “I’d always hoped to work with a company that realized the multi-format potential of this fictional world, and truly we have found the ideal partners with Amazon.”
Poe was chosen as one of the 25 New Faces by Filmmaker Magazine in 2015, and in 2016 she received the Sundance Institute’s Knight Foundation Fellowship. In 2017, she was selected for the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs. Poe is a 2017 Pew Fellow and was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2019.