Ava DuVernay’s Selma is getting rave reviews from critics and Oscar buzz for lead actor David Oyelowo. DuVernay, who directed Middle of Nowhere and worked in publicity for a long time, could also be the first black female director to get an Oscar nomination. She’s up against Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), David Fincher (Gone Girl), and James Marsh (The Theory of Everything). ScreenCrush‘s Mark Ryan writes: “It’s easy to draw a parallel between the marches in Selma and the earlier marches in Ferguson—large groups of people demonstrating against a civil injustice—but the greater comparison is what we saw happen last night with St. Louis county prosecutor Bob McCulloch, presiding over a system that was rigged from the beginning.”
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The march from Selma to Montgomery culminates in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.
Dear White People
Director Justin Simien has already won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at Sundance and has been named as one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch”. Dear White People has also been nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. Set on a fictional college campus, Dear White People centers on four black students, played by Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris, and Brandon Bell, trying to figure out their identity. Tensions begin to boil with the announcement of a “ghetto-themed” party (inspired by real events).
At prestigious Winchester University, biracial student Samantha White begins her radio show, “Dear White People”. Sam also becomes president of the all-black residential hall, whose existence is facing extinction in the name of diversification.
A period drama set in 18th century England, Belle stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a biracial woman who has to overcome society’s and her own family’s prejudices. We rarely see people of color represented in period dramas unless it’s as slaves or servants, so Amma Asante’s Belle is a breath of fresh air. Mbatha-Raw’s performance is heart-wrenching and she does an excellent job portraying her character’s sense of dignity and justice. You can watch Belle on iTunes now.
Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral John Lindsay. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield and his wife, Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love.
Beyond the Lights
Also starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights is a love story by Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood about two people from very different walks of life. NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote: “Prince-Bythewood retains an uncommonly fine touch when shooting not just sex but other scenes of physical contact and closeness, which give the film a sense of intimacy and gravity.”
The pressures of fame have music superstar Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on the edge – until she meets Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), a young cop and aspiring politician who has been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them who urge them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance. But it is ultimately Kaz’s love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, directed by David Zellner, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and earned a Independent Spirit Awards nom for Rinko Kikuchi for Best Actress. Film.com’s David Ehrlich reviewed it, saying: “The genius of Kikuchi’s performance is that – by the end – her slow descent into mania humanizes Kumiko precisely when it would have been so easy to reduce her into caricature.”
A lonely Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film, is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.
About Last Night
Starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, and Joy Bryant, About Last Night is a remake of a 1986 film Sexual Perversity in Chicago (which in turn is based on a David Mamet play of the same name.) It’s gotten largely positive reviews praising the film’s humor, particularly between Kevin Hart and Regina Hall; Jessica Herndon of the Associated Press states that Hall’s “sharp comedic timing is on par with rising funnyman Hart’s.” Hart himself said of the film, “I feel that what we’re doing is making it a little bit more modern, by incorporating black people. I don’t think it’s just about us being black, it’s just a different take on the relationship feel.” When interviewed on this and the success of his 2012 film Think Like A Man, Michael Ealy hoped for “more positive, diverse images of Black people… I feel that the images that we put out are crucial.”
This modern re-imagining of the classic romantic comedy follows two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.