Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Maybe I was anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Isaac when I saw this movie set in the deep south during a hurricane.

This isn't so much a plot-driven film as it is theme-driven. If I were back in school and this movie was the subject of a report, I would say that the themes are acceptance, independence and courage. I definitely cannot say that, when I was six years old, I was anywhere near as independent or brave as Hushpuppy, the little girl in this film. Played by Quvenzhané Wallis (try saying that three times fast), Hushpuppy lives in the Mississippi delta with her father, Wink, but is fiercely independent. She has her own home, which is a trailer on her dad's property, and even cooks for herself when her father disappears for a few days. He eventually returns, but in poor health and even poorer spirits. Shortly after, the storms come. In her imagination, the deluge of water comes from the melting ice caps (something she's just learned about in school), which also brings with them ancient aurochs (ancestral cousins to cows, but shown as boars in the film) which destroy everything in their path. In the course of the film, the people of her small community save the area from the flood waters and escape a "relief" center. Hushpuppy herself goes off in search of a long-lost mother, faces down the aurochs and learns to cope with an ailing father.

This movie was a perfect representation of why big-name directors and actors are not needed to make a film great or memorable. Wallis and Dwight Henry (who portrayed Wink) were both absolute new-comers, this being the first film for both, are both from the region in which the movie was filmed and took place. This was a first film for many of the other actors, as well. The director, Benh Zeitlin, is also new, this is his first full-length film. All in all, this film was excellent and is a much-see if you want to feel enlightened for an afternoon.

Mini soundtrack:

Billie Holiday - "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"

The Balfa Brothers - "La Danse de Mardi Gras"

Happy Fats - "Les Veuves de da Coulee"

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