On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

On DVD: Beasts of the Southern Wild

2012/ USA

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Gina Montana, Lowell Landes, Pamela Harper, Amber Henry, Jonshel Alexander

If you thought that the best films last year concerned super heroes tackling villains or James Bond strutting his stuff in a tuxedo or another trip to Middle- Earth… then you’d be wrong. Flying in under everyone’s radar was this film Beasts of the Southern Wild which is possibly one of the greatest pieces of cinema to come out of America in the last decade. This has been justified in it’s nominations for the upcoming Oscars… unfortunately due to all the Nationalistic- schmultz this year (‘Lincoln’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Argo’) it will be overlooked so make sure you do the opposite.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is adapted from the stage play ‘Juicy and Delicious’ who’s writer developed the screenplay with director Benh Zeitlin. The plot centers on young girl Hushpuppy (Wallis) who lives in a segregated community with her Father (Henry) which is ever threatened by floods and the advances of an ancient breed of animal called the Aurochs. We see Hushpuppy dealing with concerns far above her tender years and we see her have to face the problems of life head on. Her Father is dying, her Mother is gone and the world in which she lives is dangerous and apocalyptic.

Zeitlin hear directs possibly one of the most heartbreaking and overwhelmingly emotional films you will ever see. Beasts of the Southern Wild is nothing short of a classic and will more than likely in years to come be looked at with awe. Zeitlin’s knowledge of how to make good cinema seems all the more impressive when you realise that this is his first ever feature length film he directed in which he also wrote the screenplay and composed some of the soundtrack. You are sucked into the story from the word go and feel emotionally entwined with the fate of Hushpuppy and her Father.

Quvenzhané Wallis puts in a staggering performance in this film and is sure to go onto to bigger and better things. If she’s this good now we can’t wait to see what she does next. Coincidentally she’s been cast in the next Steve McQueen film which is also set to star Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. All in all though she should clean up at all the awards events this year for putting in a portrayal of emotion and heart break that some adult actors will never come close to.

Dwight Henry as Wink Hushpuppy’s sickly Father is also impressive. Through him we see the trauma of abandonment. He struggles to form a real bond with his daughter due to her reminding him of his absent wife and so treats Hushpuppy as is if she were an adult. Her innocence is challenged at every step, she drinks with the adults, has to live alone in her own house and when the Aurochs come must face them single-handedly.

Overall the film works as a great piece of social commentary. A criticism maybe of the pitfalls of American society and the handling of welfare in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. The residents in the film occupy an area called ‘The Bath-tub’ which is segregated from the mainland by a wall to keep the threat of floods from ever hitting the ominous city we see on the horizon at the film’s beginning. ‘The Bath-tub’ is a swamp land constantly subject to high winds and rain and after a time a flood that claims hundreds of lives which forces the remaining inhabitants to band together and try to force their way back into the mainland, through the wall and into safety.

If you do anything this week go and pick up or procure a copy of Beasts of the Southern Wild on DVD. You will laugh, you will cry and you will go on what can only be described as an emotional roller-coaster. Forget your Avengers, Dark Knights and Hobbits… this is truly the best thing to come out of 2012 and is sure to be celebrated as that this year. If the Academy has one shed of decency left they’ll give this the Oscar it deserves… it really is that good.


-Josh Senior


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