We recently attended a screening of the new film Beasts of the Southern Wild by director Benh Zeitlin. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the coveted Grand Jury Prize. It later won Caméra d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and was picked up by Fox Searchlight pictures. The film tells the story of a young girl named Hushpuppy who lives in The Bathtub.
The Bathtub isn’t just another shantytown on the outskirts of a suburban sprawl. The Bathtub is built around magic and a new idea of what a family is. So it makes sense that such a place would contain a young hurricane like Hushpuppy. The young child narrates our film as she gives us the tour around The Bathtub, showing us what life is like for a young kid living in a tree house by herself, with her father as her neighbor and her mother long since gone.
Hushpuppy is played by the lovely and talented Quvenzhané Wallis. Quvenzhané is a force to be reckoned with. Lying her way into the auditions (she was five at the time and the auditions were calling for girls ages 6 to 9), Quvenzhané beat out the other 4,000 would be starlets to receive her first acting role ever. The young actress carries the film into an award winning arena (there are loud whispers of an Oscar in the near future), delivering a tear jerking performance that even a veteran actor would be blessed to deliver.
It takes a village to raise a child, and The Bathtub is no different, but Hushpuppy’s courage and leadership come from an unlikely source… her father. Wink is a hardheaded, loud, crass, mean ol’ drunk. The old man carries a dark secret with him that he masks with moonshine and a foul temper. He acts as the mayor of The Bathtub, roaming from house to house, trying to keep his small community together even with the looming presence of a massive storm that is feared to wash The Bathtub down the drain.
In the beginning, Wink’s story seems to be one we have all heard far too often - a neglectful father that keeps himself at the bottom of a bottle and his child at a distance. Throughout the film though, Wink’s true character begins to shine through the cracks in his rough and calloused exterior. This is thanks to a mind blowing performance by another newcomer, Dwight Henry.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a film that will remind you what it was like to be a child with an entire world still full of wonder and awe. The film is built on imagination and poetry, while still touching on real issues and feelings that affect us all as human beings. The film raises the bar for what comes next from the independent film world and marks the beginning of several new amazing careers and we can’t wait to see what comes next from all of the inhabitants of The Bathtub.
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