Beasts Of The Southern Wild

This small film is saying big things. With awards from Sundance to Cannes already cluttering its metaphorical mantelpiece, Beasts Of The Southern Wild has already provoked shivers of excitement on the festival circuit.

This spellbinding film tells the story of the young and defiant Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her woozy father (Dwight Henry), who is in dwindling health. The strength of their relationship wavers as their post-apocalyptic world caves in around them and their immediate digs, called The Bathtub, become weathered by the decay of their environment. They’re under threat from prehistoric animals that, terrifyingly, have thawed from the ice age thanks to a few too many people leaving the lights on.

This beautiful film manages to present an apocalypse by gently highlighting the fragility of Earth while celebrating the strength and perseverance of mankind.

Hushpuppy must rise above her young age and weeny size and face up to the forces of nature, as her deadbeat dad accelerates her coming of age with some titanic-sized tough love… and some spontaneous drinking games.

Aside from the postcard-worthy scenes of a drowned but defiant water-logged community, it’s the casting that will weld this film to your memory. The performances are impeccable and you’ll appreciate then even more with the knowledge that finding the right cast took over a year of combing through the aptly-chosen location of St Louisiana, New Orleans, where locals were invited to audition by advertising in barbershops to bakeries (where Dwight Henry’s character waseventually found).
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Only the fairytale search for the owner of a certain glass slipper could be more epic than the quest to find a perfect Hushpuppy; the casting teams went as far as knocking on doors to find the appropriate little girl (bet the runners loved that job). They needed a child with heart, hope and ferocity who was able to act with her eyes and cement bums on seats for the full 92 minutes. No wonder it took four thousand auditionees (yes really) to unearth the precious Quvenzhané Wallis, who couldn’t be more perfect for the role if she had dropped from the sky and had a halo.

This beautiful film manages to present an apocalypse by gently highlighting the fragility of Earth while celebrating the strength and perseverance of mankind.

The film is almost mis-sold by its promotional paraphernalia. There aren’t as many fireworks, fairies and snarly beasts as you may be led to believe, and although it seems to present a set menu of fantastical magic, the story has real-life morals at its core. That’s not to say it’s a snotty dig at those who don’t put their bottles in the right recycling bin or a jab in the ribs at the careless men in suits. Director Benh Zeitln explains: We’re not raising awareness of suffering, or any of that. The real question to me, is how do you find the strength to stand by and watch the place that made you die, while maintaining the hope and the joy and the celebratory spirit that defined it?”

It’s no wonder, then, that New Orleans, rich in resilience and community spirit, was carefully chosen. “It’s home to the most tenacious people in America – an endangered species,”says Zeitlin.

This beautiful film manages to present an apocalypse by gently highlighting the fragility of Earth while celebrating the strength and perseverance of mankind. All this, and there’s not a robot or flesh-eating zombie in sight. Just the odd auroch.

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