Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

What's it about? 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her alcoholic father (Dwight Henry) in squalid, poverty-stricken surroundings in the waterlogged territory south of the Louisiana levee. With an accompanying voiceover of her thoughts and feelings, we experience in magical-realist fashion what happens when a huge storm (which may or may not be Hurricane Katrina) threatens her existence and that of the world she knows.

Is it any good? Much has been made of how unique and original this film is. However, it actually mixes together several elements from other films and sources. There follows my own Gumbo recipe for making the film


  1. Voiceover from Badlands 
  2. 'Words of wisdom' from Forrest Gump 
  3. Ethereal coming-of-age element from Where the Wild Things Are 
  4. Sprinkling of imagery from Aguirre, The Wrath of God 
  5. Fats Domino singing Jambalaya (on the Bayou) 
  6. Non-seasoned actors
  7. Lots of water 
  8. Bit of cheese 
  9. Large dollop of real-life eco-tragedy 
  10. Large wild boars, just to spice things up
  11. Some heart 
Mix together first 9 ingredients in no particular order.
Wait for 30mins before adding the large boars.
Wait for 1 hour before adding the heart.
Serve and garnish with awards. 

I don't trust you. What do others think? It's the Little Film That Could of 2012. From humble low-budget beginnings it got its break at the Sundance Film Festival, before progressing to many Top 10 of 2012 lists, culminating in Oscar nominations for Best Film, Director and Adapted Screenplay in 2013, with 9-year-old Wallis becoming the youngest ever actress to be nominated for Best Actress Oscar. Not bad going, considering she had never acted before and had lied to get the gig in the first place. She said she was 6, when in fact she was only 5, the little minx! She puts in a ferocious performance here and watch her win the hearts of everyone on Oscar night. Not everyone has been blown away though, with criticisms against the film-makers of making poverty-porn, using the child's-eye view to present a disingenuous and phony we-were-poor-but-happy scenario. Indeed, the simple-but-actually-profound sentiments expressed by Hushpuppy in her narration don't quite seem like the thoughts of a little girl, more like the thoughts an adult thinks a little girl has. I mean, she doesn't once mention Barbie dolls or One Direction!! But I digress. Taken on face value, it's an interesting, fantastical coming-of-age movie, which doesn't entirely work and has been slightly over-praised, but which is rather touching overall thanks to Wallis' central turn. It also has a great soundtrack .

What does the Fonz think? Son of a gun, we'll have good fun on the bayou.

Buy it on Amazon

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