Beasts of the Southern Wild Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Written by Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Jonshel Alexander, Marilyn Barbarin, Kaliana Brower
Fox Searchlight Pictures
92 Minutes | PG-13
Release Date: June 27, 2012
Directed by Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a fearless six-year-old girl who lives with her father (Dwight Henry) in “the Bathtub,” a southern Delta community at the edge of the world.
Hushpuppy’s father comes down with an unknown illness and Hushpuppy’s universe begins to unravel – literally. Suddenly and without reason, temperatures rise and the planet’s ice caps melt, unleashing a horde of prehistoric beasts known as Aurochs. As the world seemingly comes to an end, Hushpuppy embarks on a dangerous adventure to a land of concrete and steel – a land beyond the levees – to search for answers.
Zeitlin’s film, based on the stage play Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar, captures the fantastical vibe of Spike Jonze’s 2009 adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are and supplants King Max’s make-believe island with post-Katrina New Orleans.
Quvenzhané Wallis is a little force of nature as Hushpuppy, who recites simple yet poetic speech as she rummages through a muddy wasteland of driftwood, sheet metal and crustaceans. Her father, Wink, is your typical alcoholic father – practicing a brand of tough love that includes throwing back a few drinks and screaming at his six-year-old daughter before risking his life to save hers. There are a few other supporting characters in the film, mostly drunken Louisiana country folk like Walrus (Lowell Landes) and Jean Battiste (Levy Easterly), who represent a make-shift family for Hushpuppy in the Bathtub.
Schoolteacher Miss Bathsheeba (Gina Montana, When the Levees Broke) teaches the children of the wasteland all about the Aurochs – gigantic wild pigs covered in tusks that were frozen during the last glacial age. Her sumptuous thigh serves as a canvas for a cave painting-esque tattoo of the beasts roaming the plains. When the ice caps melt, these ancient beasts will roam the Earth once again – trampling everything in their path.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is an imaginative, emotionally powerful work by Zeitlin, who makes his full-length feature film debut. Vivid imagery accent the authentic performances by Wallis and Henry, providing a heartfelt story of family and man’s relationship to his environment. It’s a simple story done right – an American fairytale born on the bayou, overflowing with crawfish and Creole and plenty of down-south soul.
The film won the Caméra d’Or award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film. It’s hard to say if Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild will be rewarded come award season, but it’s safe to say you’ll be hearing more about this terrific film in the months leading up to the Academy Awards.