When it debuted at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, Benh Zeitlin’s post-Katrina fairytale Beasts of the Southern Wild took home the FIPRESCI Prize, which is awarded each year by the International Federation of Film Critics. The film also received an Ecumenical Jury mention at Cannes, as well as the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. The “visually resplendent” film takes place in a mythologized part of southern Louisiana nicknamed The Bathtub, and centers on a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (played by Quvenzhane Wallis), who embarks on an epic journey in search of her long-lost mother when her tough-love father, Wink (Dwight Henry) falls ill. Her journey is made all the more difficult due to a massive storm brought on by the melting of the polar ice caps. The storm has also unleashed an army of mythical prehistoric beasts called “auruchs” which are headed straight for her. The New York Times was in Park City for the film’s Sundance showing, and the following is an excerpt from their January 27, 2012 review:
It’s hard not to think that Searchlight’s success with ‘The Tree of Life‘ helped sway the producers of the heavily courted ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ to throw in with the company. The standout of this year’s Sundance and among the best films to play at the festival in two decades. ['Beasts' was shot] with a collective called COURT 13. (“More of an idea than an organization,” as Mr. Zeitlin puts it, COURT 13 takes its name from a Wesleyan squash court that he and some friends commandeered.) Shot on Super 16-millimeter film, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is hauntingly beautiful both visually and in the tenderness it shows toward the characters, who live on the edge and perhaps somewhat in Hushpuppy’s head. Nothing else at this year’s festival came close to stirring up the excitement and sense of discovery generated by ‘Beasts’.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, director Zeitlin remarked: “There’s really a personal freedom and a celebratory-ness and a humor that’s happening in the face of some pretty dire environmental circumstances down there. I found the resilience and the tenacity addictive. I still do, and I’m probably going to live there the rest of my life.” Needless to say, the film has been blowing away top critics around the world for months now, and recently a short clip from the film was released. It is a carefully chosen one, due to the fact that it is taken from early on in the film, and conveys the magic of the film without revealing any spoilers. So go ahead and enjoy your first taste of Beasts of the Southern Wild before it opens on June 27th.