By now, you've probably heard about Beasts of the Southern Wild. You may have even been lucky enough to see it. It's gotten rave reviews, stoked a few embers of controversy, and, at the screening I went to, had half the theater in tears, patting their chests like a hard-beating heart.
In one of the reviews from this week's issue, it's described as "an American live-action Hayao Miyazaki film." That's a spot-on analogy in my book. But we're digging even deeper with this one: We've got not one but two reviews, a slideshow of on-set photos, and an interview with the film's co-producer Matthew Parker.
Read up, then go see. Beasts of the Southern Wild opens tonight at The Belcourt, and Parker and Dwight Henry, who plays "Wink", will be on hand to discuss the film after it screens.
Beyond Superdome: Beasts of the Southern Wild: a thrilling mythic vision of the flooded South
If Toni Morrison had written a Mad Max movie, especially one of the scrapyard-at-dawn sequels, it might have emerged as Beasts of the Southern Wild — a dizzy, unclassifiable picaresque that unfolds like an apocalyptic crawfish boil at Terrence Malick's house, where words have the power to make mountains crumble and committing a violent act can be the only way to set free a dying people.
Idle Wild: Challenging the sodden mythmaking of Beasts of the Southern Wild
In this year's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Beasts of the Southern Wild, director Benh Zeitlin takes us into an isolated community colloquially known as The Bathtub. It's a small mound of swampy thicket isolated from the mainland by a levee; although Zeitlin makes it a point never to tip his hand, The Bathtub appears to be just off the coast of Louisiana. Just in sight of this semi-primitive band of dilapidated clapboard, free-roaming chickens and semi-communal living is the highway; just over the levee we see smoke-belching refineries. Wink (Dwight Henry), father to 6-year-old protagonist Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) points over Chevron-way, remarking, "Ain't that ugly."
Building the Perfect Beast: A talk with Nashville native Matthew Parker, visiting co-producer of Beasts of the Southern Wild
On the South Louisiana set where he was co-producer, Matthew Parker wandered down to the gas-station building that functioned as an all-purpose production office. He arrived to find bad news: Director Benh Zeitlin's pickup truck had caught fire. The vehicle was totaled — no small loss on a movie whose entire budget was just $1.5 million. Then someone got a brainstorm: What if you converted the truck's bed into a boat?
Long story short: When the characters in Zeitlin's debut feature Beasts of the Southern Wild motor downstream in a duct-taped vessel that looks like a junkyard science experiment, it's the director's burned-up beater they're piloting. That resourcefulness fits the movie, which stands alone among the recent subgenre of apocalypse movies in that its imperiled heroes put up a fight.