Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly and Gina Montana
Rated PG-13 Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Beasts of the Southern Wild is set on the fictional Isle de Charles Doucet. Called the “Bathtub”, this community is in the Louisiana bayou and isolated from the rest of “civilization” by a levee.
This unique and powerful film is told from the vantage of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis). Reared solely by her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), her only connection to her mother is an athletic jersey to which Hushpuppy often talks. The four-year old is unaware of her life’s true ills, such as extreme poverty, poor education, abandonment, and the damages caused by the excessive drinking of Wink and his friends. One thing that is positive is her interest in learning, especially the lesson featuring the aurochs, or pre-historic cattle, that is taught by Miss Bathsheba (Gina Montana).
She is often left to fend for herself because Wink can be irresponsible due to his rather laissez-faire demeanor. However, this is moreso to prepare her to live without him because he is ill.
After a threatening storm devastates the Bathtub, those citizens, including Wink and Hushpuppy, who remained are determined to rebuild their community and resume their lives. However, there are now new challenges to their old way of life. How Hushpuppy and Wink adapt to these will keep viewers glued to their seats!
Beasts of the Southern Wild was wildly praised for its production and especially Quvenzhané Wallis’ debut performance. Critically-acclaimed, the film was based on the one-act play, Juicy and Delicious, by Lucy Alibar.
A few reviewers, including bell hooks, panned the film for various reasons, including its pandering to racist and sexist notions, the film was critically acclaimed by many more. Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone that Wallis was amazing and captivating and A.O. Scott of The New York Times championed her and her performance, exclaiming it would prompt seasoned actors to be envious. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times raved about both Beasts of the Southern Wild and its young star. Ranking it as one of the top films of 2012, Ebert wrote, “Sometimes miraculous films come into being, made by people you’ve never heard of, starring unknown faces, blindsiding you with creative genius … ‘Hushpuppy’ is played by a force of nature named Quvenzhané Wallis … She is so uniquely and particularly herself that I wonder if the movie would have been possible without her.”
This film was nominated for numerous awards including four at the 85th Academy Awards. These nominations were for “Best Picture”; “Best Adapted Screenplay” – Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin; “Best Director” – Benh Zeitlin; and “Best Actress” – Quvenzhané Wallis. At only nine years old, Wallis became the youngest girl in history to become a “Best Actress” nominee.
Adding insight to this amazing accomplishment was that Quvenzhané Wallis had no formal training in acting. However, she was personally selected to play “Hushpuppy” by Benh Zeitlin, who was so impressed by her that he changed parts of the character to incorporate Quvenzhané’s personality. Beating out more than 4,000 other actresses, Wallis was only five years old when she auditioned for her first acting role. The minimum age requirement for it stated she had to be six. Guided by her mother, she lied about her age because they both felt she could play the role.
Beasts of the Southern Wild won several awards including the “Grand Jury Prize” at the 2012 Deauville American Film Festival; the “Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic” at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the “Camera d’Or” at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the Audience Award for “Best Narrative Feature” at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival and the Golden Space Needle Award for “Best Director” at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival. Winning the Sutherland Trophy for “Most Innovative Debut” from the British Film Institute, Beasts of the Southern Wild won the “Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation” from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012.