|Behn Zeitlin & Cast of Beasts of the Southern Wild at Sundance|
The best film I saw at Sundance this year was Beasts of the Southern Wild. Just reflecting on this amazing film makes me emotional because it moved me so deeply. I knew as I watched the credits roll that it was bound to win the US Dramatic competition and it probably generated more buzz than anything else at the festival this year. Fox Searchlight purchased it and I can’t wait for it to come to my hometown theater so that I can take my friends to see it.
The story is very magical and something that I have never seen from an American director—it was more reminiscent of something Spanish (Like Water for Chocolate or Talk to Her).
|Hushpuppy and Wink|
Beasts is the story of Hushpuppy, age 6, who lives in the “Bathtub” with her father Wink. The Bathtub is a magical place beneath the levy. Because she is 6, Hushpuppy interprets the world literally…her mother was so “hot” that she could set water to boiling, the ice caps are melting and freeing pre-historic creatures that have been frozen in the ice for thousands of years. The magic is whimsical and freed me to view the film with fresh eyes.
Beasts can be viewed as a coming of age story. It can also be viewed as apocalyptic because in the course of the movie, the rains cause the levies to break and flood the Bathtub, which virtually destroys Hushpuppy’s world. Hushpuppy is losing her father and her home at the same time. Beasts can also be viewed literally…Hurricane Katrina hits Louisiana. Although a specific location other than the Bathtub is never named, as a viewer it was impossible not to think about Katrina and its aftermath. As such this film is also a cautionary environmental tale.
As amazing as the film, is the story behind it. Beasts was actually part of a Sundance directing workshop in 2009 and backed by Sundance. The screenplay is a collaboration by Zeitlin and his long-time friend, playwright Lucy Alibar. It is a labor of love, years in the making and filmed on location in Louisiana. Zeitlin did exhaustive casting searches and found the little girl who plays Hushpuppy in a library and her father Wink in a bakery (he is a baker). Benh did not employ any professional actors in the film, but rather cast locals and then had them work with acting coaches. As they rehearsed the scenes, they rewrote them so that the dialogue was natural for each character.
It is essentially perfect. I fell in love with its magic and I believe that you will too. Grade A.