Monday, July 30, 2012


The press photos for Beasts of the Southern Wild shows a young girl running and I am reminded of the 1972 Pulitzer winning photo by Nick Ut of 9 year old Phan Thị Kim Phúc fleeing with severe burns (and who ultimately survived) caused by napalm during the Vietnam War.

This film has nothing to do with Viet Nam but has to do with fire and survival under harsh conditions. It also features an extraordinary young actress, Quvenzhané Wallis playing 6 year old "Hush Puppy" being brought up by her father played by Dwight Henry - who is fiercely independent of the "civilized/industrial" society" that the group of people who live in a section of Southern Louisiana cut off from the mainland by levees-called the "Bathtub" eschew. He knows he is dying and is determined that his daughter will be "da man." Her mother left them after birth, and Hush Puppy in her imagination has a running dialogue with her abandoned parent and occasionally utters a shrill cry which pierces your being. The little girl is fearless - and very much in touch with the animals and life that surround her. She literally puts her ear to objects to speak and hear "the universe" which gives her comfort and wisdom.

Living off the detritus of "civilization", filmed in dark browns and blacks with the light of a fire, and the constant threat of impending storms creates an environment that is not "romantic" but rather harshly primal and elemental.
When the film has a scene where the residents of the "bathtub" interact with Mainland society in a Hospital, Hush Puppy's confusion and embrace of that world is wrenching. We hear her thoughts which express the innocence of discovery.
Throughout the film there are references to Mythical creatures and global warming and a there is a moral code among the inhabitants of this world that evince the values of a true community.

See Roger Ebert's beautiful review: