RELEASE DATE: 13/09/2012
RUN TIME: 1HR 33MIN
Six year old Hushpuppy lives with her daddy, Wink, in the Bathtub, a community living defiantly outside of a levee that cuts off the rest of the world. It soon becomes clear Wink isn't well, and while he still has time, tries to instill as much knowledge in his daughter the only way he knows how. When their town is submerged, they struggle to survive, and are forced to face beasts of many forms.
'Beasts' is actually the product of a film community who support "vital stories, artfully told. As such, it's an unusual melee of unique story, characters that shine on screen, and perfect location choice. While in Sydney, the film's director and co-writer, Benh Zeitlin, discussed how the film is "structured emotionally", as opposed to the standard three-act structure. This brave risk pays off, delivering a solid story that chooses characters, places them in an intriguing location, and watches what happens next.
This couldn't have been pulled off so successfully without the organic and captivating performances by the two leads. Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry were cast respectively as Huskpuppy and Wink, following nine months of auditioning 9,000 candidates. Quvenzhané was at the time five years old, where Dwight was the baker who worked across from the casting office in New Orleans. Considering their near non-existent acting experience, these two animate their characters and allow them to flourish on screen. Quvenzhané brings an encapsulated fury to her role, a caveman determined to make her mark on the world, while Dwight plays to perfection a man left to raise his daughter who discovers his own demise will soon leave her to fend for herself.
There is nothing quite like it, and there most likely never will be again.
As Zeitlin's first feature film, 'Beasts' is a remarkable affair. Much of the film is shot from Hushpuppy's point of view, and he commented that he was always conscious to "imagine she's making the movie, not me". There is a lot of handheld work, shallow depth of field and low-angle shots - which all comes together to reflect the view of this diverse world from the perspective of a six-year-old. The location of South Louisiana plays its own part in this ambitious film, representing an alternative universe to ours, yet one with similarities enough to relate to.
It's impossible to encapsulate precisely what makes 'Beasts of the South Wild' so successful: its heartfelt, honest, unique story, its passionate and emboldened characters, its life-affirming message. In essence, the only way to fully appreciate this film is to witness its glory yourself - and I thoroughly compel you to do just that.