Palm Springs Film Fest: David Oyelowo Lands Breakthrough Performance Award for 'Selma'

Selma Trailer Grab - H 2014

For his uncanny portrayal of the Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay's Selma, the British actor David Oyelowo will receive this year's Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival's 26th annual PSIFF Awards Gala on Jan. 3. The fest will run Jan. 2-12.

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Previous recipients of PSIFF's Breakthrough Performance Award include Lupita Nyong’o (2014, for 12 Years a Slave), Carey Mulligan (2010, for An Education), Marion Cotillard (2008, for La Vie En Rose), Jennifer Hudson (2007, for Dreamgirls) and Felicity Huffman (2006, for Transamerica). All of the aforementioned went on to receive Oscar noms for those same performances — and Nyong'o, Cotillard and Hudson won.

"David Oyelowo’s transformation into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is truly outstanding,” PSIFF chairman Harold Matzner said in a statement. “He perfectly recreates King’s mannerisms and speech cadence, and moreover, captures the spirit of one of the greatest leaders in history, giving audiences a rewarding portrait of this iconic man that is deeply layered and effecting."

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Oyelowo, it could be argued, previously gave "breakthrough" performances in many films prior to Selma, including The Last King of Scotland, Red Tails, Lincoln, The Paperboy, DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere and Lee Daniels' The Butler. (In fact, I was pleased to have him on last year's "THR Breakthrough Performers Panel" in recognition of his performance in the last of those films — see below.) This year, he can also be seen in A Most Violent Year, Interstellar and Default.

PSIFF previously announced that The Imitation Game will receive this year's Ensemble Performance Award, Boyhood's writer-director Richard Linklater will receive this year's Visionary Award, Wild's lead actress Reese Witherspoon will receive this year's Chairman's Award, The Theory of Everything's lead actor Eddie Redmayne and Still Alice's lead actress Julianne Moore will receive this year's Desert Palm Achievement awards, that Whiplash's supporting actor J.K. Simmons will receive this year's Spotlight Award and that Gone Girl's lead actress Rosamund Pike will be honored with its other Breakthrough Performance Award.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg