By: Pat Burns, Western Regional Editor and Art Cinema Reviewer for GRAND Magazine
Oprah’s new favorite movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is one of those films that, when someone asks, “So, how’d you like it?” you’re not really sure how to respond. Yes, each person who was meticulously cast for this film performs superbly (dare I say Oscar worthy?) and it’s packed with mystical symbolism, but it’s one of those films you love to recommend but requires an accompanying warning: It’s deep. It’s troubling. It’s fantastic.
The film was beautifully directed by Benh Zeitlin and written by Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar. The director is only 29 years old and this is his first feature film, which was produced on a shoestring budget. He interviewed thousands of people for his lead roles and discovered two of the best first-time actors imaginable.
This film is as an American fantasy action drama set on a fictional island, “Isle de Charles Doucet,” known to its residents as “the Bathtub.” The story is about a six-year-old little girl, Hushpuppy, brilliantly played by Quvenzhané Wallis, and her sickly, hard-drinking daddy, Wink, played by Dwight Henry. Hushpuppy may be small and vulnerable but she is far from weak.
There are plenty of other characters in this film. All of them have chosen to live a secluded life without modern conveniences. For instance, rather than telephoned storm warnings, a child runs through the streets ringing a bell and yelling. Experiencing a hurricane similar to Katrina, this rebellious bayou community tells a story about how an uneducated yet wise people, full of stubbornness – and in need of an indoor shower – feel just as strongly as you and I that their home is worth fighting for. And so is their family and way of life that are inextricably tied to it.
After the film ended, my friends and I sat motionlessin our seats for several minutes, not saying a word. When we did find the words, they poured out and almost couldn’t be stopped. We stayed in our seats, discussing the film until the next show’s previews began playing. We wondered what caused some people to endure living in such uninhabitable conditions. We related to the sacrifices a father makes to help his child, and the toughness of a little girl who doesn’t back down from her imposing father.
The acting and the story line are excellent, thought-provoking and discussion worthy so my recommendation is to see this movie with someone who would enjoy the ensuing conversation that will naturally arise.
The behind-the- scene stories about the making of this bayou film are also remarkable. To hear more about how this film was made and meet the director and leading stars, you can watch Oprah’s interview on her Super Soul Sunday program on the OWN network or online on their website.http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Full-Episode-Why-Oprah-Loves-Beasts-of-the-Southern-Wild