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Selah and The Spades

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Exclusive: Character Cards for Selah and The Spades

Exclusive: Character Cards for Selah and The Spades

Not unlike that sequence in The Godfather II where all cards are put on the table when Michael visits Hyman Roth in Florida, there is a certain cosa nostra meets Harry Potter type world in Tayarisha Poe‘s exquisitely detailed Selah and The Spades. We presented our series of Sundance Trading Cards and profiled the filmmaker (#14 in our set), feast your eyes on this subset – beautifully rendered hand drawn exclusive first look at the characters “cards” for Selah and The Spades factions.

Five factions run the underground life of the prestigious Haldwell boarding school. At the head of the most powerful faction – The Spades – sits Selah Summers. By turns charming and callous, she chooses whom to keep close and whom to cut loose, walking the fine line between being feared and loved.

The Spades

Paloma Davis:
Born March 14th in Philadelphia, PA. Her dad owns an extermination company and her mom died when she was a kid. Her favorite album is Give Up by The Postal Service.

Thinks her life is that one scene in Garden State where Natalie Portman puts her headphones on Zach Braff’s head and changes his life with New Slang by The Shins

One liner: Paloma is new to Haldwell, and Selah’s protege.

These are Paloma’s favorite feelings: pressing the next button on her mp3 player and hearing a song she hasn’t heard in ages but that instantly recalls a memory of feeling safe; slipping her feet from her heavy black boots and taking off her sweaty socks and placing her toes in warm ocean water; when her dad is home and they make dinner together; behind her camera taking a photo pressing the shutter on her camera and not knowing for certain if she captured the moment then seeing the finished result and seeing more than the moment could ever contain; when Selah leans in close to tell her something private; looking in the mirror and it matching the image she has of herself in her mind; card and coin slight of hand; when it snows in the daytime; reading a new book from start to finish without stopping other than for bathroom and PopTart breaks; PopTarts (strawberry middle, no frosting on the outside, toasted, and when they pop you cut three small slices into the top and spread butter over it. her mom taught her this move.); weed, all kinds of weed, weed that makes you feel okay with being ignored, weed that makes you giddy and silly, weed that makes you hungry or sleepy, weed that makes you lose yourself in your own thoughts and thus leaves you unconsidered with the thoughts of others about you; her black motorcycle boots; Matt’s hoodie that she took from at school one day because it fit her better than him; when her extended family comes for a visit and the living room is filled with noise and laughter and roasting and light and color and she is allowed to fade into the background and close her eyes and soak it all up.

Selah Summers:
Born September 4th on the Main Line. She’s been a Haldwell student since seventh grade. Her mother and father both attended when they were younger. She has a younger half brother and half sister, twins. Her stepfather tries way too hard to be cool. Her favorite activities are organizing her day planner, playing Spades (the card game), Spirit Squad, the debate team, and all things faction related.

Selah has memorized all of Michael Corleone’s lines in The Godfather. Not intentionally. She’s just seen it so many times, how could she not?

Selah didn’t start The Spades, she inherited it in eighth grade from her second cousin, Olivia, who was a senior that year and decided that she trusted no one to take over her faction other than her own blood. All the other factions strongly resented this choice as no faction leader had ever been younger than a sophomore, but the Summers’ girls do what they want, how they want to do it.

Her favorite color is lilac and her favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs. She organizes her closet by color. She would organize her books the same except she considers straying from alphabetical order nearly sacrilegious and, quite frankly, fuckin dumb.

One liner: Selah is the head of The Spades, and Maxxie’s best friend.

Maxxie Ayoade
Born February 29th. Favorite book is Holes by Louis Sachar, a worn out copy that he’s had since then ird grade is never too far from his reach. He wants nothing more than for everyone around him to be having a great fucking time.

Maxxie and Selah grew up in the same town on the Main Line. Their parents attended Haldwell together, and Maxxie’s first memory of Selah is her convincing him to jump from a ledge in her driveway and into the neighbor’s garden. Little did they know at the time, he’s pretty sure Selah didn’t know at least, but the neighbor’s lined their garden with rose bushes.

He survived, and he loved it. He might be obsessed with getting into shenanigans and then surviving them. So long as he’s having fun in the meantime.

When they were eight the Weiser Twins held Maxxie down in the playground while one of them peed on his shoes (it was Nicholas, the more evil of the twins), and as retribution Selah shot Christopher (the less evil of the twins) in the cheek with a BB gun. The BB is still in there. Safer not to take it out.

Maxxie would do anything for Selah because Maxxie is loyal and Selah is the most badass person he’s ever met.

One liner: Maxxie is Selah’s right hand man, and easily distracted.


The Sea

Tarit Toll Perilstein:
Born June 16th. From Brookline, MA. Tarit does believe that humans successfully walked on the moon, but he’s not entirely convinced that it happened in this universe as opposed to a parallel reality in which we at times experience unexplained crossover with.

Selah had to sit him down in seventh grade and explain that there was absolutely no question about it: the earth was not flat and he had to stop papering the halls of Haldwell with his “Flat Earth = True Earth” posters.

The point is that Tarit can argue his way through pretty much anything. The Flat Earth Club reached 47 members of the Lower School before Selah shut it down. He leads The Sea because he believes in the democratization of the academic experience.

“Why should we all have to suffer when instead we of The Sea will suffer on your behalf so long as you pay us to do so?” in his own words.

For as long as there has been homework there have been kids cheating on it. Tarit saw a disjointed group of people willing to help others lie and cheat on their academics with no real reward, and so he figured if they banded together, not only could they do more, but they’d form in essence a union. Shorter hours, bathroom breaks, agreed upon hourly rates.

One liner: Tarit is quick to buy into conspiracy theories, and spends his free time playing squash.


The Bobbys

Roberta “Bobby” Pellegrino
Born September 13th in Manhattan, NY.

Her favorite things: her extensive collection of berets and matching pinafore dresses; Machiavelli’s The Prince; the drama of the theatre; cinnamon dusted toasted almonds; modern dance class; improv; her heart shaped red sunglasses; her one woman senior thesis “These Are The Things They Want Us To Forget: One Woman’s Journey From Birth To Death To Birth To Death To Birth To…” (sidenote: when Bobby revealed the posters for this show Selah and Maxxie spent half of a faction meeting clowning her in the fields, relentless)

Bobby arrived to The Haldwell School in eighth grade determined to take her natural place at the top of the totem pole. Her sister had gone through Haldwell a decade before her and back then, her sister was one of The Skins. The Bobbys weren’t The Bobbys before Bobby came along, before her they’d just been The Swig Kids, named for the Swig Theater where they spent most of their spare time. Bobby, headstrong and fast talking and with her voice just loud enough to silence any dissent, convinced them that what their faction really needed was a bit of strong branding and what better brand existed than Bobby herself?

As a faction, The Bobbys are in charge, as they put it, of the arts. Need a bootleg of your next favorite album, of a movie, a concert? The Bobbys. Having a party and want it to look and feel like Studio 54? The Bobbys. The Bobbys are concerned first and foremost with production value. They put what the other factions procure to good use in order to craft an environment of rollicking good times. Every secret underground cave rave that has ever taken place near Haldwell has been because a Bobby saw the cave and had the courage to ask “What if…”

One liner: Bobby wanted to join The Spades in eighth grade, but they politely declined.

The Skins

Amber Bolfo, born November 5th in Sacramento, CA.

Oneish liner: She’s the secretary of the factions. A unanimous decision because she’s easily the most impartial of the leaders. Amber’s concern is with what is just and fair and nothing more than that. Other than money. Amber loves money.

Amber took over The Skins in the madness of the Sophomore Year War and no one is at all upset about it.

The Skins revolutionized the high school betting industry. Bookies take bids in the hallway near the drinking fountain on the third floor near the boy’s bathroom in between classes. Acceptable currencies: cash; drugs and booze; Sobranie cigs; car rides; cleaning services; popularity points, etc.

The Skins used to be run by Damien Horscht, back when Amber Bolfo was a sophomore. She’d spent Freshman year happily running numbers, but at the end of her first year The Skins elected Damien to take over operations. This was a surprising move, as Damien had never great with numbers and came up through the group as Muscle, even when he was still an eighth grader. He considered the number runners to be, in his words “full of chicks and fobs” and Amber couldn’t quite believe that her beloved faction could so easily have given itself over to someone who clearly yearned for a different outcome in World War II. His casual racism, sexism, and fear of others any different from himself worried Amber, as it would worry any sensibly minded human being. She spent the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year courting the interest of other Skins, who had admittedly voted for the man, but mostly because he promised to make their group great again. They were wooed by this, even though he joked one too many times –truthfully, one time would have been too many–that they should start calling themselves The Skinheads rather than the Skins.

Amber organized the group, including a necessary contingent of the Muscle, and one day at dusk Damien Schomerst found himself hanging upside down from the train tracks over Elysian Fields watching his change and matchbooks fall from his pockets until he agreed to abdicate the throne. He transferred to Pence before the fall semester began.

Amber Bolfo was the first sophomore to lead The Skins and she truly has made the group great again.

The Prefects

Thomas Richard Thomas, “Two Tom” for short. Born April 12th.

One liner: Two Tom is the tenth in his family to attend The Haldwell School as a Prefect, unsurprisingly.

Two Tom is Selah’s academic rival: they’re often jockeying for the top spot in the class, and have been since freshman year. There’s a mutual respect due to their intellectual commonalities, but Two Tom would date Selah in a heartbeat if he could. He never could.

The Prefects artfully keep nearly all faction activity from the hands of the school administrators. Two Tom, as senior prefect, also heads the Student Judicial Committee in those moments when shit hits the fan and comes into the light.

Every faction greases the palms of The Prefects, lest they let slip of a secret party happening with drugs and booze provided by The Spades after the big game that The Skins coordinated bets for since no one had any homework to do after subcontracting it all out to members of The Sea…

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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