Wednesday, August 1, 2012


BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is a limited released, independent film which has been making waves this year, having won awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festival. It is a perfect blend of real-world grittiness, family values, and childhood imagination.
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is a six year old girl who lives with her father (Dwight Henry) in a third-world community near large bodies of water. When her father falls deadly ill, her universe falls out of harmony; storms ensue, water rise, and the ice caps melt which thaw out a herd of prehistoric creatures. With her home nearly underwater, her father dying and the creatures approaching, Hushpuppy goes in search of her long-lost mother to restore balance.

BEASTS revolves around little Hushpuppy and her reactions to her world as it crumbles around her. Normally, films tend to get derailed by little-kid characters that are way too intelligent for their age, but BEASTS remains grounded and real by keeping Hushpuppy as a little kid. While there are a few scattered moments (mostly near the end) where she is made out to be smarter than the average adult, there is never a doubt that we are seeing this world through the eyes of a six-year old; even as the prehistoric creatures lumber towards her. The film has a perfect blend of reality and fairy tale which keeps the simple survival plot afloat.
And the realization of this world is what makes BEASTS seem so darn close. This is a third-world community where people sleep on moldy cardboard, catch fish with their bare hands, and float downstream in the back of pickup-truck beds. Director Benh Zeitlin does tremendous work in bringing this impoverished country to the screen, and you have to wonder if the crew ever bothered to hire a set director and just showed up at a slum on the outskirts of the woods.

The acting is superb and fits right in to the gritty and slimy world. Dwight Henry, as the tough-loving father, looks like he was a homeless person hired right off the street and vanishes into the character, as does the entire supporting cast. The film belongs to little Quvenzhane Wallis, who not only has to go through some serious physical work here, but also sells the part of a little girl in a tough situation with no problem.
The question of whether or not the prehistoric creatures are real or just a figment of Hushpuppy’s imagination is left up to the viewer. The answer to that question really doesn’t matter, as their existence on film serves a higher purpose other than just another plot point or device. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is unlike any other film seen before, and is unlikely to be imitated.


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