OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Winner of the FIPRESCI and Golden Camera Awards at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain regard)!

Poster art for Beasts Of The Southern WildThe standout of this year’s Sundance and among the best films to play at the festival in two decades, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, is directed by Benh Zeitlin, who wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar. It’s a magical realist tale, as well as a hero’s journey, set in a gloriously mythologized part of southern Louisiana nicknamed the Bathtub. There, a 6-year old girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis, a sensational find), lives in a state of grace and wonder with her hard-boozing father, Wink (Dwight Henry), amid wandering (and later cooked) chickens, stumbling drunks and rampaging creatures.

Shot on Super 16-millimeter film, Beasts Of The Southern Wild is hauntingly beautiful both visually and in the tenderness it shows toward the characters, who live on the edge and perhaps somewhat in Hushpuppy’s head.

– Manolha Dargis, The New York Times


It’s difficult to explain exactly what Beasts Of The Southern Wild is, though it’s undoubtedly something extraordinary: like a live-action Miyazaki film, with Days Of Heaven narration, set in a dirt-poor community at an unspecified time of crisis. The grade-school aged Quvenzhané Wallis plays Hushpuppy, who lives with her oft-absent father (Dwight Henry) in a water-bound region of Louisiana known as The Bathtub. The denizens of The Bathtub – a mix of black and white, old and young – work the land and the lake, and teach their kids about the coming icecap-melt that will flood their land and revive the giant hairy boar-type creatures which used to rule the Earth. Then one day the waters do rise rapidly, and Hushpuppy and her dad join the Bathtub survivors in trying to dodge the governmental authorities so they can continue to live (and die) in their own way.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild isn’t about the poor, or African-American life, or Katrina, or anything that specific. The movie takes place in an abstracted world, which resembles our own, only darker and wilder, and for the most part, co-writer/director Benh Zeitlin merely explores that world and shows how it hardens his heroine. Beasts isn’t wholly successful, either. In striving to create a new space that’s not quite real and not quite fantastical, Zeitlin and his co-writer Lucy Alibar leave aside conventional character motivation and plot, allowing the story to drift from incident to incident, at times aimlessly. But at least they always have Hushpuppy on their side, explaining what she sees and what she’s learned. (Visiting a hospital for the first time, for example, Hushpuppy observes that there they plug their sick animals into the wall.)

Beasts Of The Southern Wild culminates in a thrilling finale, and a last shot that’s one of the damnedest things I’ve ever seen on a screen, affirming the movie’s notion that the most important task that we undertake is to leave our own mark, to be seen for generations to come. As far as Beasts Of The Southern Wild is concerned: mission accomplished.

– Noel Murray, The A.V. Club

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