BEATS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD // ALICIA BARRINGER

Crafting an opening scene with a precocious six-year-old traipsing around in boy's briefs and an undershirt seems like a risky move when you're a relatively obscure director with an even more obscure cast. However, that didn't stop Benh Zeitlin from doing exactly that in his first full-length feature. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a whimsical tale about a bayou community in Louisiana after a Katrina magnitude storm. Like all great tales, it is laden with strength and courage reinforced by love and loss. Primarily focusing on the relationship between Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her ailing father Wink (Dwight Henry), who affectionately calls her "Boss Lady ", Beasts chronicles their tale while attempting to reestablish their lives and community on the bayou. As viewers journey through this saga that is heavily influenced by the imagination of Hushpuppy, they'll encounter mythical beasts known as aurochs, the creatures Hushpuppy naïvely believes are responsible for the anarchy.

Despite this being Quvenzhané Wallis' first film, the poise and conviction demonstrated within her performance makes that seem almost unbelievable. This could have something to do with Zeitlin allowing Wallace to change the script to use language and actions she was completely comfortable with, enabling her to render a top-notch performance. Allowing that much creative freedom, the director could have made the film or broken it completely. Luckily for Zeitlin it was the former; if she didn't have such a mind-blowing performance, this film would be an astounding failure with astonishing cinematography.

Zeitlin offered up a beautifully endearing glimpse into a world that has very little materially but possesses more pride and integrity that one could imagine. Creating a story that is an amalgamation of fantasy and reality, Zeitlin inadvertently forces viewers to scrutinize the class structure and the distribution of wealth within our society. While this critically acclaimed film may be a piece of fictional brilliance, the inspiration behind it descends from his real life experiences. Back in 2008, Zeitlin and his studio company, Court 13, went to Louisiana to live amongst the locals post-Katrina while shooting his short film entitled Glory at Sea. If you compared it to his 2012 release, Glory could easily be a scene integrated within the film with very little manipulation. That's how visually and thematically similar the two works are. From what Zeitlin has produced thus far, it's safe to say that he has become truly enamored by the culture that is the bayou. Beasts of the Southern Wild is definitely worth watching at least once, even if it's just to see why critics and viewers alike are clamoring over a wild haired Hushpuppy.

View Beasts of the Southern Wild Trailer



Alicia Barringer is a senior Sociology major at CABRINI UNIVERSITY. She is infatuated with Don Julio, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker. She is also an advocate for all things vulgar.