The civil rights drama “Selma” has been named the top film of the year by the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), and also leads NAACP Image Awards nominations with eight.
The Paramount film, which is the first studio production to center around the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not only earned top honors among the Black critics, but also received nods for Best Director (Ava DuVernay), Best Actor (Davis Oyelowo) and Best Song (John Legend’s and Common’s theme song, “Glory,”) the film critics association announced this week.
A mix of Hollywood veterans and fledglings were recognized in the other categories.
Best actress went to Gugu Mbatha-Raw for her lead role in “Belle,” a period drama in which the illegitimate, bi-racial daughter of a British admiral plays a pivotal role in abolishing slavery in England. Octavia Spencer, of “The Help” fame, won best supporting actress for her role in “Black and White,” a story of a bitter custody battle. Tyler Perry and J.K. Simmons shared best supporting actor honors—Perry won for his role as an attorney in “Gone Girl” and Simmons for his portrayal overly exuberant music instructor in “Whiplash.”
“Dear White People” won best independent film and cast member Tessa Thompson earned the nod for best breakout performance with her part as a college student activist. Top screenplay honors went to Gina Prince-Bythewood for “Beyond the Lights” and best ensemble went to the James Brown biopic “Get On Up.” Best documentary went to “Life Itself,” about the career of critic Roger Ebert, and best world cinema honors went to “Timbuktu,” a political drama about Islamic militants briefly occupying Timbuktu, according to USA Today.
“Our members found the output of cinema released this year to be a truly insightful mix of titles that reflect the world we live in,” AAFCA president Gil Robertson said in a statement. “The members of AAFCA were especially pleased with this range of storytelling supported by the studios that gave voice to the many sides of the experience of Black people in America and around the world. We had a lot to pick from this year from ‘Belle,’ ‘Dear White People,’ ‘Top Five,’ ‘Timbuktu’ and ‘Selma’ and hope the industry will continue to provide a platform for diversity on the big screen.”
The AAFCA will hold its annual award ceremony on Feb. 4 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.