This movie saw its 9-year-old star Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. She broke the record of 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, who was nominated for the similarly folksy and enchanting Whale Rider. The same day that Wallis became the youngest-ever ‘Best Actress’ nominee, Emmanuelle Riva (age 85) became the oldest-ever Best Actress nominee for her role in Amour (2012). It always amazes me how directors drag such amazing performances out of kids. It’s almost as if we don’t think they are acting and this is the kid they really are. It would be greedy Jennifer Lawrence that snatched the statue away from the sweet little kid for Silver Linings Playbook.
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year-old black American girl, lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in the Bathtub, an impoverished southern Delta community on the banks of the gurgling Mississippi. The people live outside of normal society, rules and convention, Wink dishing out tough love to prepare his daughter for the unraveling of their world. Her mother has run off and dad will soon be unable as he is sick. The rather imaginative little Hushpuppy connects her fathers decline to the world around her and thinks the weather and nature is out of whack because of his decline, temperatures rising and the ice caps melting, unleashing a rampaging army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs (an extinct ancestor of the bovine family of mammals, with the last Auroch dying in 1627) in that imagination. With the bayou waters rising, local legend has it that great storms bring the Auroch to feed on all other living things on the final streaks of land, including humans. With that Armageddon approaching, little Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother in a community of lost people.
Poetry on screen is the perfect description for this enchanting folksy tale, poverty always producing the most utopian and colorful of communities. Deep down if we could live in a shack by the beach in the tropics with no overheads we probably would. It’s certainly a different, beguiling and thoughtful film. It drags out the hippy in you and a pleasant heart warming experience.
It’s low budget but looks extremely authentic and rustic for its $1.8 million budget. Oscar interest meant good money and normally a break even film did a healthy $21 million back. Baring in mind most of the cast had not done much acting before and both stars first movie you have to be impressed with Wallis and Henry in the lead. Henry owned a bakery and had never worked on film before and yet superb here, both earning a spot alongside Chiwetel Ejifor in 12 Years A Slave for their efforts.
Filming began around the time of the BP oil rig explosion and so the crew regularly going head-to-head with the clean up in the area. That kind of vindicates their efforts as this film is about human interference in our fragile eco system and the consequences thereafter. It has a real spiritual feel to it on those subtle themes of global warming and community. It’s really enjoyable and worth a look if you want to see something less mainstream, unaffected and involving, an intelligent reality movie.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Directed (and written) by Benh Zeitlin
Starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry
Running Time: 93 minutes
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of 6 year old Hushpuppy, living with her Father in a small community called the 'Bathtub', seemingly cut off from the rest of the world.
I liked this film more than I expected, considering it's low budget and unknown stars. The most notable thing is, of course, Quvenzhane Wallis in her film debut, and I completely agree with Roger Ebert who described her as a 'force of nature'. Wallis was 5 when she was cast, and 6 when she filmed 'Beasts', despite having no previous acting experience, she dazzles and enchants as the fearless little Hushpuppy - a role which made her the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history.
Dwight Henry, who plays Hushpuppy's father, Wink, also gives a significant performance - though he was drowned out of media attention by his little co-star.
The story is pretty captivating, and an amazing effort considering it was Benh Zeitlin's debut feature film.
The film as a whole was good - though it didn't have the effortless charm of more experienced productions. This made it slightly less enjoyable at times, and though it was a lovely story, it lacked a sense of visual dazzlement and completion.