Beasts of the Southern Wild: Born on the Bayou

On Tap Magazine
July 2012

Opening July 6th, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a mad fever dream of a movie, filled with evocative images that will remain in your consciousness long after the film has ended.

Beasts of the Southern WildThis eco-drama was a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the top award for dramatic (fiction) film and for cinematography. Beasts of the Southern Wild has also been honored by the Cannes Film Festival.

“This is a simple movie about fighting for your home,” says director Benh Zeitlin.

The movie follows Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives with her father in a swamp community of rebels and misfits. Played by Quvenzhané Wallis, she is fierce heroine who struggles to keep her father alive and survive environmental catastrophe. Playing amid broken glass, rooting pigs and wandering drunkards, she is braver and stronger than any first-grader you have ever met.

Casting non-actors like Wallis is one of many risky decisions made by Zeitlin. For his first feature film, he violated the unwritten rule that directors should avoid working on water or with child actors.

Beasts of the Southern Wild embodies the can-do spirit of the Louisiana bayou, where it was filmed. Everyone involved in the film pitched in, providing boats and suggesting locations, in a community still struggling from the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

“We invited chaos in intentionally,” Zeitlin said, describing the makeshift filmmaking process.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was a labor of love for Zeitlin, a project that he spent two years editing. Over time, the story focused more and more on Wallis – she literally carries the film on her tiny shoulders. There is already Oscar talk around her striking performance.

A coming of age story and a tale of a community’s survival, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a crazed American jalopy of a movie. Packed with stunning imagery of the Louisiana bayous, Beasts of the Southern Wild is the harrowing saga of a little girl trying to survive in a world where the ground is literally disappearing beneath her feet.