Beasts of the Southern Wild
June 29, 2012 1 Comment
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her daddy, Wink, (Dwight Henry) live in The Bathtub, a forgotten island cut off from society behind a wall built to keep the rest of Lousiana dry. Surrounded by water and abject povery, Wink raises Hushpuppy to be strong, independent, and to weather any storm.
Secluded from the rest of the country, knowing and feeling they are misfits, the folks of The Bathtub have formed their own society. Told from Hushpuppy’s point of view, the universe is a magical place where everything must fit together just right, because if one thing falls out of place, disaster will strike.
When a mysterious illness causes Wink to go missing, only to show up a full day later stumbling around in a hospital gown, Hushpuppy’s universe begins to collapse. Polar ice caps melt, waters rise, nearly drowning The Bathtub, and a fearsome trio of aurochs, prehistoric animals that would eat Hushpuppy for breakfast, are released from their icy prison. The fearsome aurochs make their way to The Bathtub.
Filmed in New Orleans and Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana with a cast of bayou bread actors, and shaky cam at hip height to capture Hushpuppy’s view, Beasts has a gritty realism that is unexpected for such a modern fairy tale. Knowing nothing about the movie before the screening, I found that I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a documentary. This blurring of reality and film was also largely due to the incredible performances of Wallis & Henry. Wallis performs with such stunning ferocity and passion you would never guess this 8 yr old wrapped on this role two years ago.
Henry portrays a father who has to be tough as much as he would love to be tender. A father who knows he has to raise his child for the way the world is and now how he would like to be. This is something I cannot recall seeing in most films; a single father caring for his daughter. And while there has been criticism about Hushpuppy fitting into the “strong” black female stereotype, it is also clear that she longs for a tender love she believes she would have from her mother, if she could just find her. Her father raises her to expect heartbreak, at times he can be intense and frightening, but what is always clear is that he loves Hushpuppy.
What is also clear is that this film has a buzz that darn near unstoppable. I have never seen anything quite like this. The harsh organic elements of reality, combined with a child’s fantasy, and apocalyptic heroism make for a very daring film. A little black girl gets to be the star, a leader of her Bathtub people in this post apocalyptic fairy tale. This doesn’t involve violence, but courage faith (of the non-religious variety), and love. Winner of six awards, including the prestigious Grand Jury award from Cannes and a score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, Beasts is a film built for audiences and critics to love.
I would also like to note that although there is a depiction of a flood in Beasts, it is not Katrina. This film is in no way uses a recreation of a real life traumatic event in order to exploit your emotions in the way Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close uses 9/11.
Important things to discuss about this movie, I think, are the “strong black woman” stereotype . What does “empowerment” really mean for black female characters in film? It’s not the same for white female characters. Black women and even girls are already viewed as strong and able to shoulder any hardship that comes their way; making us more than human. This leads to neglect of the needs and desires a black girls/women may have for tenderness, compassion, love, and vulnerability. After all, you’re so strong you don’t need my help, empathy, or hugs. Romance? That seems to be out of the question.
Beasts will more than likely not be seen by it audience and by critics as “black film” despite its nearly all black cast, but will people who have only seen the trailer see it that way? Already, there is concern that the distribution for this film is less than most indie films because of the brown cast.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below AND GO SEE THIS MOVIE!