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'Selma' named top film by African-American Film Critics Assn.

'Selma' wins best film, director, actor and song from African-American Film Critics Assn.

Ava DuVernay's historical drama "Selma" was named the top film of 2014 by the African-American Film Critics Assn., the group announced Monday.

The first studio film to center on Martin Luther King Jr., "Selma" was the big winner with the AAFCA, claiming four awards. In addition to best film, the Paramount picture won director honors for DuVernay, best actor for David Oyelowo, and best song for its theme "Glory," by John Legend and Common.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw was named best actress for "Belle," Octavia Spencer received best supporting actress honors for "Black or White," and Tyler Perry ("Gone Girl") and J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash") tied for best supporting actor.

Gina Prince-Bythewood won best screenplay for "Beyond the Lights," and Tessa Thompson was honored for her breakout performance in "Dear White People." The latter movie was named best independent film.

The critics chose "The Boxtrolls" as best animated film, "Life Itself" took documentary honors, "Get on Up" won for best ensemble, and "Timbuktu" was the recipient of the best world cinema prize.

Along with "Selma," the AAFCA announced the rest of its top 10 films of 2014. In order of distinction, they are: "The Imitation Game," "The Theory of Everything," "Birdman," "Belle," "Top Five," "Unbroken," "Dear White People," "Get on Up" and "Black or White."

After premiering to a rousing standing ovation at AFI Fest last month, "Selma" has shaken up this year's awards season race as a best-picture contender. The nontraditional biopic chronicles the critical three months in 1965 when King organized a trio of marches through the segregated South that led to the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act.

The AAFCA previously announced that it will bestow special achievement honors on Donna Langley, Stephanie Allain, Franklin Leonard, Debra Martin-Chase and the Los Angeles Times' own Susan King.

The critics will present the awards at a ceremony Feb. 4 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.

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