The low budget independent production Beasts of the Southern Wild nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin) and Best Actress (Quvenzhane Wallis) at the Oscars is a fantasy fable, post-Katrina ecological parable that amazes, stuns and delights.
Co-written by Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Allbar whose play Juicy and Delicious served as the films starting point, it's originality caught the imagination and led to Oscar nominations. It's a minor miracle that this independent production got off the ground because it's not standard Hollywood material and yet it's the kind of movie that lingers in the memory and one which you don't hesitate to recommend - it's a movie for everyone. It's unique.
A mixed-race group of eccentrics live in floating huts and houses on stilts in a wetland community called The Bathtub in a remote corner of the fictional bayou territory, below the levee wall, at risk of semi-permanent flood and modelled on the Isle de Jean Charles in southern Louisiana. Six year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives with her ailing father Wink (Dwight Henry) a hard drinking fisherman, believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe and is the narrator of this fable. An eloquent schoolmistress talks of the change in the environment with global warming, surviving a biblical deluge and the importance of interdependence. Inspired by Wink, Hushpuppy inherits his strength and becomes a warrior as he ferries her to safety. There are even surreal echoes of Apocalypse Now as they move up river and come across a floating bordello and both grow closer as the impending crisis looms. Hushpuppy's dead mother remains a presence throughout, a woman of legendary beauty who it was said could light a gas fire simply by walking past. Rescue and treatment by well-meaning doctors offers no respite and escape to the old life is all that matters. This isn't the TV coverage of the Katrina aftermath. There's no charity. There's no fear as the storm hits. There's defiance and Hushpuppy takes on the fears of the world and begins the search for her mother.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a beautiful, funny, tender, poetic and remarkable creation with a cast of non-professional locals making their acting debut. Nine year old Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars has a magical strength beyond belief. Dwight Henry as Wink is a baker and deli proprietor in New Orleans and is a revelation. The creativity and imagination of the film is found throughout and is illustrated in the iconic scene with Hushpuppy running at night through The Bathtub festival throng with a Roman candle in each hand. That alone divides this film from the mainstream but doesn't place it solely as arthouse. It's a film that all can enjoy and be surprised and amazed by.
Director: Benh Zeitlin Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival, Un Certain Regard & Camera d'Or Cannes 2012 Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Quvenzhane Wallis) and Best Director (Benh Zeitlin) 2013 Oscars Genre: Drama Country of Origin: USA 2012 Language: English 93 mins. Rating: ****