To be frank, it’s really the only "black film" (fiction) with any kind of awards season potential, and just like we closely followed "12 Years a Slave" throughout its awards season tour last year, into this year, expect the same for "Selma," as the season kicks off!
Yes, Chris Rock’s "Top Five" has certainly been buzzy since its TIFF premiere in September, but, so far, the buzz hasn’t quite translated to awards recognition. And there’s also Justin Simien’s "Dear White People," but I’m not sure there’s been much in terms of an awards season push/plan for the film by Lionsgate and/or Roadside Attractions – certainly not as we’ve seen with films that are clearly what have endearingly come to be known as "Oscar bait" films.
Like last year, when we saw a handful of "black films" that were to be in contention earlier in the season (in addition to "12 Years a Slave," there was "The Butler," "Mandela," and "Fruitvale"), in the end, once we got into the thick of things, "12 Years a Slave" separated itself from the pack, and, as we all know, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Lupita Nyong’o), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley).
I predict the same thing for "Selma" this year – a clear cut favorite amongst critics, since its AFI Fest premiere.
So here’s what we know about "Selma," thus far, in terms of what it’s been recognized for:
1 – First, the film picked up 5 Independent Spirit Awards nominations: Best Feature; Ava DuVernay for Best Director; David Oyelowo for Best Male Lead; Carmen Ejogo for Best Supporting Female; and Bradford Young for Best Cinematography. Winners will be announced at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 21, 2015, broadcast live exclusively on IFC.
2 – Just yesterday, the International Press Academy (IPA) announced its nominations for the 19th Annual Satellite Awards in the Motion Pictures and Television categories. "Selma" was recognized in 4 categories: Best Actor in a Motion Picture (David Oyelowo); Best Motion Picture; Best Original Screenplay; and Best Director. The winners of the 19th Annual Satellite Awards will be announced in a ceremony held on February 15, 2015 in Los Angeles.
3 – Announced today, the National Board of Review gave the film its Freedom of Expression Award.
4 – And finally, the not-so good news is that, according to a Hitflix exclusive, "Selma" will NOT be eligible for Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards consideration. Why? One or more production companies producing the film is not a guild signatory; essentially, there’s no basic agreement between the production company (or companies) and the WGA. Although, it’s worth noting that this is a problem that can indeed be amended retroactively – that is if the film’s producers really want to do so. But keep in mind that, while a sore-spot, last year, "12 Years A Slave" also was not eligible for WGA consideration. And that certainly didn’t hurt the film’s chances at the Oscars, where it picked up 3 majors, including, of course, Best Original Screenplay. I should mention that "Dear White People" isn’t eligible this year either. Although Chris Rock’s "Top Five" is.
It’s certainly worth noting that, if Ava DuVernay is nominated for the Best Director Oscar, she’ll be the very first black woman director to ever be nominated for the Best Directing Academy Award, as incredible as that sounds, given the 86-year history of the award. What’s even more pathetic is that, in the long history of the Oscars, just 3 (THREE) black directors (all male) have been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award (none of them won): John Singleton in 1992 for "Boyz n the Hood" (he was actually the very first black director to be nominated for that specific award; he was also – and still is – the youngest person ever nominated in this category at just 24); in 2009, Lee Daniels was nominated for "Precious;" and, of course, most recently, Steve McQueen was nominated for "12 Years a Slave" (he was also the first black British filmmaker to earn a Best Director Oscar nomination, and is the first and ONLY black director to have directed a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture).
Boy, is there still a lot of work to do!
I should also note that Ava previously made history as the first black woman to win the Best Director award at the Sundance Film Festival, 2 years ago.
Up next, we’ll hear from SAG, the PGA, the DGA, the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and the many "film critics" circles/organizations, who’ll be announcing their nominees, and/or winners over the next 2 to 3 months.
And the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, will announce its nominees on January 15.
And so it all begins… all over again.