Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a magical film full of hope and determination. It is a story about the human spirit, but not just any human spirit, the spirit of a child. Hushpuppy, the child through whom we are invited to journey with, is not just any child. She is a brave young girl willing to take on storms, confront wild beasts, and take care of her family. This film is a beautiful tribute to the survivors of hurricane Katrina, and especially the ones who stayed and weathered the storm.
It is hard to describe Beasts of the Southern Wild. It is really something that should be experienced, but I’ll do my best. Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane’ Wallis) is a small girl whose mother left and now must take care of her sick father. She lives in a remote area of Louisiana just outside the levy. The town has little or no contact with outsiders and the townspeople literally live off the grid. There is talk of a big storm coming their way, and although some people pack up and leave others stay behind to wait it out. Hushpuppy’s father Wink (Dwight Henry) mocks people who leave. He thinks they are weak and scared for being afraid of a little water. Although Wink is sick he is still able to do some things for his daughter. He teaches her how to provide for herself. This includes learning how to catch fish by hand and other survival skills. Wink believes people who go to the grocery store are weak, and that what he teaches his daughter will help her survive no matter what her circumstances may be. Hushpuppy soaks it all up and ultimately proves she may be stronger than her father ever imagined.
Beasts of the Southern Wild has everything going for it. It has great acting, directing, cinematography, and an amazing story. This is incredible because most of the people associated with the film are newcomers. Neither Wallis nor Henry have acted before, but you wouldn’t ever expect that after watching their performances. In fact, Henry is a baker who has said that he is not interested in an acting career. The film was directed by first time director Benh Zeitlin who is only 29 years old. He also co-wrote the film with Lucy Alibar. Cinematographer Ben Richardson has worked on only a few short films, but he gives us a breathtaking picture of life outside the levy. All these rookie filmmakers, actors, and actresses come together to deliver one of the best films of the year.
What is so great about this film? The answer is many things, but what amazed me most was the strength and innocence of a child. There are many terrible things portrayed in this film including poverty, abandonment, devastation, sickness, etc., but instead of viewing them through the eyes of an adult, as most films tend to do, we see them through the eyes of a child. Because of this we see them from a different perspective, one we may have known before but have forgotten over the years. Some of the terrible things experienced by Hushpuppy are not so terrible to her, others she tries to escape by hiding under a box or by denying they exist at all. Amidst all the turmoil and disaster she never backs down. She is a fighter and she will not give up. There have been some great movies already this year, and there will be more to come, but I’m not sure we will see a character as exciting and enthralling as Hushpuppy for a long time to come.