Original Showing Venue: Sundance Film Festival (U.S. Dramatic Competition
Screening Location: Centurty Landmark, Chicago, IL
Production: Cinereach, Court 13
Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Screenwriters: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin, based on Alibar’s play “Juicy and Delicious”
Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn
Executive producers: Phillipp Engelhorn, Paul Mezey, Michael Raisler
Director of photography: Ben Richardson
Production designer: Alex DiGerlando
Editors: Crockett Doob, Affonso Goncalves
Music: Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin
What we sacrifice when we choose comfort and safety over courage and freedom…
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a poetic evocation of an endangered way of life and a spot-on take about human resilience and self-reliance.
Hushpuppy, the little girl at the center of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” lives in squalor and outside of a government enforced levee in Southern Louisiana. Along with a couple dozen other community members, our film characters live simple lives: elevated shacks act as houses, dilapidated ruins become playgrounds and everyone seems to have as much alcohol as they’re heart could desire. However the one thing that Hushpuppy doesn’t posses is naivety. The destructive World which Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives among has taught survival techniques enough to know “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right.”
Based off the play “Juciy and Delicious” (Lucy Alibar), Director Benh Zeitlin’s lyrically touching and first Feature outing proves that with a distinct vision and drive - one can fully succeed in puling off both disaster, and coming-of-age, masterfully. Scene after scene we are reminded that the World our characters live in is more in the ways of animals - not of humans. ‘Beasts” shows real ambition by combining a dazzling and entertaining World unlike any viewers could have seen from an Indie platform this year, while also exposing the harsh truths of the displaced items in this world. This director has invested in a story told from an ecological, magical-surrealism and dramatic human experience to show levels which prove a remarkable eye for balance. Zeitlin’s strength isn’t with just capturing a good story on camera but within substance as well - some of the reviews out of Sundance evoked the name of Terence Malick but Zeitlin’s successful work is his focus on human interactions and shows a possibility of even more growth in years to come.
Through an impressive allegorical eco-coming-of-age story, ‘Beasts” combines unpretentious and visually stunning cinematography (Ben Richardson) with an unmistakable humanity primarily seen through an unlikely Father (Dwight Henry) & Daughter combination. The acting pair excellent performances with a tender relationship - fragile, agonizing and altogether interwoven. Mainly shot from an 8 year old POV through the water-logged Louisiana bayou aptly named the Bathtub, the audience comes face-to-face with Hushpuppies daily trials and the locals (all portrayed by non-professional actors) who share in the same misfortunes of sacrifice. Cooking, cleaning, learning hard truths of the tough-minded local schoolteacher Miss Bathsheba (Gina Montana) is just another day-in-the-life of Hushpuppy and the audience is taken-along for the journey. The young Wallis portrays a wise-beyond-her-years kid without ever giving up her childish inner-life. Based on her attitude after the screening, Wallis has no idea how good she REALLY is during this film…and perhaps ignorance is bliss.
All cells are firing on all cylinders here - The score (Zeitlin and Dan Romer) provides one of the more heady and expressive musical outputs in 2012 by inducing its audience to soak in the World of the film, The Production Design (Alex Digerlando) enpapsulates a beautiful harshness and Alex Digerlando’s prehistoric monsters are terrifically overbearing.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is an incredible debut film: overwhelming, engaging, beautifully entertaining, and it deserves to be shared. Check out the Photos & Video from the recent Q&A at Chicago’s Century Landmark with the Director and two stars of the film below.