Today is a special day.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a movie I was fortunate enough to see a month ago, is opening in theaters nationwide.
I went into this movie completely cold. Meaning, I didn’t know what it was about, where it was set or who was in it. I knew it was a Sundance and Cannes darling, so I knew it was going to be pretty decent.
I really wasn’t prepared for how astonishing this film was. For days, I tried to form the words to describe it. It wasn’t just brilliant. It wasn’t just well-acted, written, produced, directed and designed. It was… magical. This movie is pure magic, something that is lacking in much of reality TV-focused U.S. media.
The film allowed me to enter the world with Hushpuppy (played by wunderkind Quvenzhané Wallis, who was six when the movie was in production. I will lose all faith in Hollywood if she isn’t nominated for an Oscar next year), while completely suspending disbelief. The movie is so beautifully shot (on Super 16) and orchestrated that even the most cynical viewer will ease into the world of the modern-day hunter-gatherers that inhabit The Bathtub, the fictional parish in Louisiana where the story is based. A world completely separated from society, one that Wink (played pitch perfectly by Dwight Henry, another first-time actor) feels the need to prepare Hushpuppy for, in some harsh and controversial ways. His love and care for Hushpuppy, however, is always clear, and it reminds you of the well-meaning, sometimes misguided things people do in the name of love.
This film is one of the few that takes the perspective of a child, a very wise child who has still retained a healthy amount of innocence. When a harsh storm threatens Hushpuppy and Wink’s community, one can’t help but to think of the spirit of those hit by Hurricane Katrina, and those who continue to have their livelihoods threatened in the aftermath of the BP oil spill (which started, ironically, on “Beasts” first day of production).
This film is as much about wonder as it is survival, and it’s a powerful reminder that even when everything is falling apart, if you know your place in the world, you can find incredible magic in chaos.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is in theater today. I give it four out of four cowry shells. You MUST see it.